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Using the “recovery” and “rehabilitation” paradigms to support desistance of substance-involved offenders: exploration of dual and multi-focus interventions

Sarah Elison (Breaking Free Group, Manchester, UK)
Glyn Davies (Breaking Free Group, Manchester, UK)
Jonathan Ward (Breaking Free Group, Manchester, UK)
Samantha Weston (School of Sociology and Criminology, Keele University, Keele, UK)
Stephanie Dugdale (Breaking Free Group, Manchester, UK)
John Weekes (Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) (Correctional Service Canada Research Branch, Ottawa, Canada)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 5 December 2016




The links between substance use and offending are well evidenced in the literature, and increasingly, substance misuse recovery is being seen as a central component of the process of rehabilitation from offending, with substance use identified as a key criminogenic risk factor. In recent years, research has demonstrated the commonalities between recovery and rehabilitation, and the possible merits of providing interventions to substance-involved offenders that address both problematic sets of behaviours. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the links between substance use and offending, and the burgeoning literature around the parallel processes of recovery and rehabilitation.


This is provided as a rationale for a new treatment approach for substance-involved offenders, Breaking Free Online (BFO), which has recently been provided as part of the “Gateways” throughcare pathfinder in a number of prisons in North-West England. The BFO programme contains specific behaviour change techniques that are generic enough to be applied to change a wide range of behaviours, and so is able to support substance-involved offenders to address their substance use and offending simultaneously.


This dual and multi-target intervention approach has the potential to address multiple, associated areas of need simultaneously, streamlining services and providing more holistic support for individuals, such as substance-involved offenders, who may have multiple and complex needs.

Practical implications

Given the links between substance use and offending, it may be beneficial to provide multi-focussed interventions that address both these behaviours simultaneously, in addition to other areas of multiple and complex needs. Specifically, digital technologies may provide an opportunity to widen access to such multi-focussed interventions, through computer-assisted therapy delivery modalities. Additionally, using digital technologies to deliver such interventions can provide opportunities for joined-up care by making interventions available across both prison and community settings, following offenders on their journey through the criminal justice system.


Recommendations are provided to other intervention developers who may wish to further contribute to widening access to such dual- and multi-focus programmes for substance-involved offenders, based on the experiences developing and evidencing the BFO programme.



Elison, S., Davies, G., Ward, J., Weston, S., Dugdale, S. and Weekes, J. (2016), "Using the “recovery” and “rehabilitation” paradigms to support desistance of substance-involved offenders: exploration of dual and multi-focus interventions", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 274-290.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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