Substance Use Patterns of Men Offenders: An Ethnocultural Comparison

Research Highlights: Indigenous and White offenders have greater substance use needs than other ethnocultural groups.

Publication

No RIB-20-04

December 2020

Research in Brief- PDF

Substance Use Patterns of Men Offenders: An Ethnocultural Comparison

Why we did this study

The Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) offender population has seen a proportional increase and diversification of ethnocultural groups since 2000.Footnote 1 In addition, close to 70% of incarcerated men were identified as having substance use issuesFootnote 2, underscoring the importance of exploring the substance use patterns of offenders from various ethnocultural backgrounds.

What we did

The Computerized Assessment of Substance Abuse (CASA) assesses substance use patterns at admission to federal custody. Between April 2016 and March 2019 4,982 men offenders were assessed. Substance use indicators were compared across the following ethnocultural groups: White, Indigenous, Black, Arab, Southeast Asian, Latin American, South Asian, other Asian, Filipino, and OtherFootnote 3.

What we found

Other ethnocultural groups demonstrate lower substance use severity than White or Indigenous offenders (see Table); Black, Arab, and South Asian offenders were least likely to have an identified substance use issue.

Examination of other substance use indicators show that:

  • Early drug or alcohol use (15 years or younger) was most common for White and Indigenous offenders.
  • Alcohol and marijuana were most likely to be used by all study groups in the 12 months prior to arrest. Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants were more likely used by Filipino or Indigenous offenders while Indigenous and White offenders were more likely to report cocaine/crack or opioid use. Filipino offenders had comparable rates of cocaine/crack use as Indigenous and White offenders.
  • Black, South Asian, Filipino, and Other Asian offenders were less likely to have a history of injection drug use.
  • Black, Filipino, and Other Asian offenders were also less likely to have a link between their substance use and criminal offending or to have used opioids in the 12 months prior to arrest.
Table: Examination of Substance Use Indicators across Ethnocultural Groups
Characteristic Ethnocultural Groups (%)
White Indigenous Black Arab Southeast Asian Latin American South Asian Filipino Other Asian Other
Overall Substance Use Severity
None 22 8 40 47 32 37 39 26 38 29
Low 38 32 47 30 39 46 44 63 56 40
Moderate to Severe 40 60 13 23 29 17 18 11 6 32
Early alcohol use (15 years or less) 50 70 24 23 27 34 23 22 7 39
Early drug use (15 years or less) 48 63 29 27 17 38 19 5 0 35
Substance Used Most-12 months prior arrest
Alcohol 27 19 35 22 23 37 32 37 56 29
CNS Stimulants 10 13 1 2 9 5 5 15 0 6
Cocaine/Crack 12 11 4 9 7 2 5 11 6 9
Marijuana 23 30 27 22 17 31 26 11 13 23
Opioids 10 13 1 6 9 5 4 0 0 8
History of Injection Drug Use 19 25 2 5 5 6 2 0 0 11
Link between substance use and offending 44 62 19 27 25 25 26 11 13 38

What it means

CASA data demonstrates that Indigenous and White offenders have higher rates of substance use issues compared to other ethnocultural offenders. Understanding the substance use patterns of other ethnocultural offenders, such as Black, Filipino, or Other Asian offenders, can inform CSC‘s management and intervention strategies to address offenders’ substance use needs during incarceration and upon community reintegration.

For more information

Please e-mail the Research Branch or contact us by phone at (613) 995-3975.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.

Prepared by: Sophia Garrel & Shanna Farrell MacDonald

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