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Alcohol and Crime: Behavioral Aspects - Biases In Studies Of Events

proportion involvement prison drinking

The percentage of crimes in which the participants were drinking may be biased by several factors. First, these percentages are based on crimes that are detected and reported to the authorities, a select portion of all criminal events. Intoxicated offenders may be easier to apprehend, especially for incidents in public places where potential witnesses are more numerous; they are more likely to leave evidence connecting them to a crime and are more likely to be recidivists known by the police. If substance abusers are more likely to be recidivists, they may be overrepresented among prison inmates (Pernanen, 1989; 1996). These biases may lead to an inflated proportion of alcohol involvement in crime. Other factors might decrease the true proportion of alcohol involvement: for example, alcohol abusers may be diverted into treatment rather than sentenced, reducing the proportion of prison inmates who were drinking at the time of their crime (Pernanen, 1996).

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