Substance Abuse and Dependency Disorders in the Criminal Justice System: A Test of the Simple Screening Instrument's (SSI) Reliability and Validity in Screening Recent Arrestees and Incoming Prison Populations

William R. Crawley, Grand Valley State University

ABSTRACT
Beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, social scientists began to actively develop, refine and utilize mental health survey instrumentation, replacing more expensive and often less objective clinical assessment procedures. As a result of such efforts, multitudes of screening instruments have been produced over the years, each typically articulating its own intended audiences and diagnostic goals. However, the mental health disorders of central concern in this study will be drug abuse and dependency disorders. The literature review in this subject area indicates that early large-scale studies revealed that various U.S. populations indicated differing levels of drug use prevalence, with some of the most significant levels of use having been reported by institutionalized populations housed within the criminal justice system. While this research will review past criminal justice legislation and policy to curb drug misuse, along with research attempts to assess both general and criminal justice populations for drug use prevalence and dependency disorders, its specific goal is to assess the reliability and validity of the Simple Screening Instrument (SSI) as applied within multiple institutionalized criminal justice venues.

Beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, social scientists began to actively develop, refine and utilize mental health survey instrumentation, replacing more expensive and often less objective clinical assessment procedures. As a result of such efforts, multitudes of screening instruments have been produced over the years, each typically articulating its own intended audiences and diagnostic goals. However, the mental health disorders of central concern in this study will be drug abuse and dependency disorders. The literature review in this subject area indicates that early large-scale studies revealed that various U.S. populations indicated differing levels of drug use prevalence, with some of the most significant levels of use having been reported by institutionalized populations housed within the criminal justice system. While this research will review past criminal justice legislation and policy to curb drug misuse, along with research attempts to assess both general and criminal justice populations for drug use prevalence and dependency disorders, its specific goal is to assess the reliability and validity of the Simple Screening Instrument (SSI) as applied within multiple institutionalized criminal justice venues. All data for this project was collected during formal processing of recent arrestees and incoming prison inmates in the criminal justice system in the state of Nebraska throughout the calendar year 2001. Each case included the administration of the SSI and at least one other diagnostic instrument and/or a corresponding clinical psychological assessment. In order to assess the validity of the SSI, convergent relationships with other indexes of substance misuse will be demonstrated, to include clinical assessment histories of substance abuse, pharmacological information, self-reported use of illicit drugs, illegal use of prescription drugs, previous treatment histories, and other instruments designed to screen for substance misuse. In addition, logistic regression analyses will be utilized to assess differences in the overall accuracy of the SSI as a function of respondents' demographic characteristics and setting. Results of the analyses and recommendations for policy and future research will be discussed in the light of these findings.

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Updated 05/20/2006