Diagnosed alcohol dependence and criminal sentencing among British Columbian Aboriginal offenders

Emily S Rempel, Julian M Somers, John R Calvert, Lawrence C McCandless

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1 Citation (SciVal)


INTRODUCTION: Alcohol use is commonly reported as a short-term criminal risk factor; however there is minimal research on the effects of alcohol dependence on crime. Canadian Aboriginal offenders exhibit both disproportionate crime and alcohol disorder prevalence. This study aims to examine the impact of diagnosed alcohol dependence on Aboriginal ethnicity and criminal sentencing in British Columbia.

METHODS: We used an administrative linkage database of social, health and justice system variables to develop a retrospective cohort of 70,035 offenders sentenced through courts in British Columbia from 2001-2010. We used a coefficient difference mediation analysis to evaluate the mediating effect of alcohol dependence on the association between self-reported Aboriginal status and sentencing rate.

RESULTS: Aboriginal offenders had 1.92 (95% C.I.: 1.79,2.06) times higher odds of alcohol dependence than Caucasian offenders. Adjustment for health, social and demographic factors resulted in a 27% (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 15%, 33%) reduction in the association of Aboriginal ethnicity on sentencing. Adjustment for alcohol dependence resulted in only a further reduction of 2% (95% CI: -12%, 15%). Although alcohol dependence was associated both with Aboriginal ethnicity and sentencing, it did not have a significant mediating impact on sentencing rate.

CONCLUSION: Alcohol dependence was not a mediator for the relationship between sentencing rate and Aboriginal ethnicity. However, due to the proportion of offenders diagnosed with alcohol dependence, these results support alcohol misuse as an important public health policy target in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192 - 198
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Early online date27 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Adult
  • Alcoholism
  • British Columbia
  • Criminals
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American
  • Inuits
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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