Criminal Justice Alcohol and Drug Screening in Practice: Using the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory to Identify Substance Use Disorder in Offenders

*Corresponding author: Nelson J. Tiburcio*, Scarlett L. Baker and Kristin S. Kimmell


The substance abuse subtle screening inventory (SASSI) has been used successfully in correctional treatment settings and correctional screening since 1988. These screenings include outpatient evaluations of offenders within community settings, as well as assessments of incarcerated individuals within federal, state, city, and county correctional facilities. One key element towards reducing recidivism and reoffending, is that individuals receive treatment for substance use disorders (SUD’s) while in the correctional
system. While SUD is not the only contributing factor to criminality, it does significantly increase the likelihood of legal infraction and violations, placing these individuals at a higher risk of re-offending. Thus, identifying SUD as early as possible helps provide tailored treatment to those who need it, while simultaneously reducing the risk of future legal difficulties. Now in
its fourth iteration (SASSI-4), this article discusses the SASSI screening tools’ utility with criminal offenders and serving clinical needs, and reviews a case study of a young male’s clinical evaluation while incarcerated.
For this case study, we reviewed the SASSI-4 screening results of a 24-year-old male whom we will call “Bryon”. Bryon was in his 4th week of detention at a local mid-western jail in the United States. He was arrested after turning himself in for a prior domestic violence offense committed while under the influence of alcohol and for which he had fled the state. Bryon had one prior arrest (for receiving stolen property, which he subsequently traded for drugs). The intake counselor conducting Bryon’s assessment had been meeting with him at the jail for several weeks. The court was particularly interested in determining the level of risk that Bryon would again flee the area.
This case presents us with a good example of the value of early identification of substance use disorder, and potential problems in criminal justice settings. Bryon’s SASSI results clearly demonstrate a well-established pattern of substance misuse that will require relatively intensive intervention. Therefore, he may be a solid candidate for diversion into an alcohol and drug treatment program as a way of reducing the risk of future offenses.
Subtle SUD screening; The SASSI Institute; Criminal offenders; Corrections; Recidivism; Alcohol and drug screening.