Depenalization, diversion and decriminalization: A realist review and programme theory of alternatives to criminalization for simple drug possession

Alex Stevens, Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes, Shann Hulme, Rebecca Cassidy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Alternatives to criminalization for the simple possession of illicit drugs are increasingly of interest to policy makers. But there is no existing theoretically based, empirically tested framework that can inform development and evaluation. This article presents a realist programme theory of such alternatives. It bases this on a realist review, which followed the Realist and Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards (RAMESES). It describes the systematic process of searching the literature in English on nine relevant countries (Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Jamaica, Netherland, Portugal, the UK, the USA) for information on alternative measures in three categories: depenalization; diversion; and decriminalization. It shows how these measures – in theory and in practice – combine with pre-existing social conditions and institutional contexts to trigger mechanisms across three causal pathways (normative; criminal justice; and health and social services). It shows how some posited causal processes are more empirically supported than others. Alternative measures can reduce harms imposed by criminal justice processes without increasing drug use or related health and crime harms, but this depends on specific combinations of contexts, mechanisms and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

Keywords

  • drugs
  • depenalisation
  • diversion
  • decriminalisation
  • realist review
  • programme theory
  • drug policy
  • Law
  • Law enforcement

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Depenalization, diversion and decriminalization: A realist review and programme theory of alternatives to criminalization for simple drug possession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this