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The association of criminal justice supervision setting with overdose mortality: a longitudinal cohort study.

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Background and aims

Despite the high prevalence of substance use among people in the US criminal justice system, little is known about the incidence of overdose mortality by use patterns, drug convictions and supervision setting. We examined the associations between these characteristics and overdose mortality.


Retrospective cohort study.

Setting and participants

Individuals sentenced to prison, jail, probation or jail plus probation for a felony conviction in Michigan, USA from 2003 to 2006.


Using the National Death Index, we assessed overdose mortality to December 2012. We calculated overdose mortality rates by pre-sentence opioid use, drug convictions and supervision setting. Multivariable analyses were conducted using competing risks regression with time-varying covariates.


Among 140 266 individuals followed over a mean of 7.84 years [standard deviation (SD) = 1.52], 14.9% of the 1131 deaths were due to overdose (102.8 per 100 000 person-years). Over the follow-up, more than half of overdose deaths occurred in the community (57.7%), nearly a third (28.8%) on probation and 12.8% on parole. The adjusted risk of overdose death was lower on probation [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.71, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.60, 0.85] than in the community without probation or parole (HR = 1.00) but not significantly different on parole (HR = 1.13, 95% CI = 0.87, 1.47). Pre-sentence daily opioid use (HR = 3.54, 95% CI = 3.24, 3.87) was associated with an increased risk. Drug possession (HR = 1.11, 95% CI = 0.93, 1.31) and delivery convictions (HR = 0.92, 95% CI = 0.77, 1.09) were not significantly associated with overdose mortality.


Based on the absolute or relative risk, parole, probation and community settings are appropriate settings for enhanced overdose prevention interventions. Ensuring that individuals with pre-sentence opioid use have access to harm reduction and drug treatment services may help to prevent overdose among people involved with the criminal justice system.

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