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The Path Forward: Policing, Diversion and Desistance


Graham, H, The Path Forward: Policing, Diversion and Desistance, Policing Vulnerability, The Federation Press, I Bartkowiak-Theron and NL Asquith (ed), Annandale, NSW, pp. Annandale, NSW. ISBN 978-186287-897-6 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron and Nicole L Asquith

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Drugs and crime are complex issues that police face every day. The remit of reducing and preventing substance misuse and criminal activity, thus enforcing the law while working with those who break it, highlights risks, rights and responsibilities which can seemingly sit in tension, yet need to be balanced in equilibrium. Such work is quite visible, with the effectiveness and legitimacy of police responses to drug-related crime and disorder closely watched and publicly debated in the communities in which they occur.

Substance use is widespread in Western society, with Australia and New Zealand having the highest estimated rates of marijuana and amphetamine use in the world (Degenhardt and Hall, 2012). In discussions here, "drugs" refer to a broad range of stigmatised and celebrated substances, including licit substances (for example, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, solvents, prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines), illicit substances (for example, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, heroin) and liminal or emerging substances (new synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals, for example, mephedrone). While the licit/illicit divide is quite pronounced in public perceptions (as the latter carries much more stigma), the divide between the two does not necessarily reflect what is more or less risky or harmful to individuals and societies. For example in Australia, the total cost of alcohol misuse is estimated to be $36 billion annually (Laslett et al, 2010), whereas the total cost of illicit drug misuse is estimated to be $6.7 billion (Collins, Lapsley and Marks, 2007). Furthermore, "drug-related crime" comprises a broad range of offences, ranging from many types of crimes that may be committed while under the influence, to acquisitive crimes funding the habit, through to drug possession, manufacture, dealing and trafficking as offences in and of themselves. Establishing whether the nature of the relationship between drugs and crime is causal, coincidental, or reciprocal is beyond the scope of analysis here, except to say that a relationship exists and the various complex links are well documented (see for example, Farrow, Kelly and Wilkinson, 2007; Hammersley, 2008).

The first half of this chapter explores the dynamic vulnerabilities and potential risks of substance misuse in custody and the community, along with the complex challenges that arise for practitioners charged with the care and control of drugusing offenders. The second half of the chapter considers two key questions:

  1. Why and how do people stop offending?
  2. What types of interventions and initiatives involving police best support desistance from drug-related offending?
Although often constructed as the problem, offenders and ex-offenders are key stakeholders in community safety and crime prevention as the choice to stop offending is theirs alone. These two questions and ensuing discussions of supporting desistance therefore have implications for the role of the police and relational dynamics with offenders, and the broad competencies, heightened professionalism and multi-tasking required of officers engaged in community policing and partnership working. Because this group of offenders often have complex needs underlying their substance misuse and offending, some of the most promising approaches involve police working closely with other stakeholders who are better placed to offer therapeutic interventions and practical supports. Examples are given to briefly illustrate the ways in which different types of partnerships can promote diversion and work towards supporting desistance.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:policing, desistance, diversion, community justice, collaboration and partnership, community policing
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Police administration, procedures and practice
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Law enforcement
UTAS Author:Graham, H (Miss Hannah Graham)
ID Code:81471
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2012-12-10
Last Modified:2016-10-19
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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