Incarcerated Substance Use: Does Procedural Justice Play a Role?



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The U.S. has the highest number of incarcerated individuals in the world (Liu, Visher, & O’Connell, 2020). Mass incarceration comes with many social implications, including the fact that criminals are disproportionately likely to have a history of substance use (Asberg & Renk, 2012; Battle et al., 2003; McNiel, Binder, & Robinson, 2005; Mital & Carroll, 2020). Once released, criminals often relapse into these problems and fail to receive the proper help they need (Asberg & Renk, 2012; Begun, Early, & Hodge, 2016; Goldman�Hasbun, Nosova, Kerr, Wood, & DeBeck, 2019; Mital & Carroll, 2020). While there has been much discussion on why criminals have these types of issues, procedural justice has been particularly focused on in previous research (Beijersbergen, Dirkzwager, Eichelsheim, Van Der Laan, & Nieuwbeerta, 2015; Liu, Miller, & Visher, 2019; Liu et al., 2020; Tatar, Kaasa, & Cauffman, 2012). Feelings of procedural injustice have been found to correlate to various forms of misconduct, including anger and substance use (Beijersbergen et al., 2015; Tatar et al., 2012). Therefore, it was hypothesized that perceived feelings of procedural justice would correlate to lower substance use in formerly incarcerated people. A cross-sectional survey study was conducted using data from 203 formerly incarcerated individuals recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Results found that the participants had overall moderate levels of substance use and that procedural justice served as a protective factor against the need for substance use interventions. Limitations and future directions are discussed.