WSC Seal

The Western Criminologist
Spring 1996

The Official Newsletter of the Western Society of Criminology

Editor: Dr. Miki Vohryzek-Bolden,
Criminal Justice Division, CSU-Sacramento, 6000 J St. Sacramento, CA 95819-6085


President's Message


As fall approaches, planning for the 1996 WSC conference is shifting into high gear. The 1996 conference will be held in the lush wine country of Northern California. We have two excellent people handling the planning: Patrick Jackson, Professor at nearby Sonoma State, is the Program Chair, and Barbara Bloom, from nearby Petaluma, is the Facilities Chair. Patrick is spending much of his time this fall lining up a keynote speaker, arranging plenary sessions, and issuing the call for papers. Barbara is working with the staff at the Red Lion Inn in Rohnert Park to ensure we have the space and equipment needed for our conference. Now is the time to make the commitment to present a paper. Late February is a lovely time to visit the wine country, the wild mustard should be blooming in the vineyards and the temperatures should be mild. Look over the call for papers and think about what you could contribute. A progress report on work-in-progress is one option if you are in the middle of a study. The theme for our 1996 meeting is "Reassessing Crime, Realizing Justice: Collaborating for a New Agenda."

Planning for the 1996 conference started in earnest at our May board meeting. This meeting was different form previous board meetings since it utilized video conferencing. One difficulty with getting people to serve on the WSC board of directors is that attending the quarterly board meetings can be expensive, since each of us must pay our own expenses to attend. If everyone lived in California, it wouldn't be a big problem; but if we want to include members from other states and countries, we need-ed to find a less costly way to conduct board meetings. Currently we have board members from the states of Washington (Julius Debro), Nevada (Matt Leone), Hawaii (voting past president Meda Chesney-Lind), Texas (Patrick Kincade) and California (the rest of the board). Since increasing participation is one of the goals of the organization, the board decided to try video-conferencing for our May meeting. Many college campuses have video-conferencing capabilities and we decided to try to link everyone up with a nearby campus. Things didn't go quite as planned; we ended up with most of the northern California board members and Pat Kincade who flew in from Texas, at California State University, Sacramento, with a video link to Martha-Elin Bloomquist at California State University, Bakersfield. On audio links (but no video) were Julius Debro, snow-bound Matt Leone, Cheryl Maxon on an audio link to Bakersfield, and the San Diego board members, Chris Curtis, Cynthia Burke and Darlanne Hoctor. It was expensive for WSC since we had to pay charges for using the facilities at CSUS and Bakersfield. Moreover, only Martha-Elin and those of us at CSUS were on video; Martha-Elin gamely smiled and talked into the camera, knowing that eight of us, several hundred miles away, were watching her every move. She, on the other hand, had eight different people to observe. Everyone else, on audio links, had to use their imaginations. Despite several mix-ups and some delays in getting everybody hooked up, the meeting proceeded smoothly and we were able to conduct discussions about our upcoming conference, awards, and committee assignments.We got through our agenda expeditiously and ended our meeting early. The consensus of the board was that video-conferencing worked well for the May meeting where a lot of the agenda consisted of discussing preliminary plans for the next conference and taking on assignments, but face-to-face meetings are more functional for our fall meeting where we must work out conference details. It was a learning session for all of us. A big thanks goes to board members Miki Vohryzek-Bolden at CSUS, and Chris Curtis, at San Diego Data Processing Corp., for doing much of the work in finding out about the video-conferencing process and helping to make the arrangements.

Several important issues were discussed at our May board meeting. One big decision the board made was to hold our 1997 WSC conference in Hawaii. The board has been discussing this for several years and the site committee concluded that the time was right. We are hoping to arrange some type of terrific travel package with inexpensive airplane fares to Hawaii. Start saving your money and plan on Hawaii in 1997. Darlanne Hoctor and Barbara Bloom did a lot of work checking out possible sites for our next couple of conferences.

One of the most important contributions to the 1996 meetings comes from you. Participation is what the WSC is all about. We were founded with the idea of providing a place (our meetings) for Western criminologists, criminal justice policy makers, and criminal justice practitioners to get together informally and share information and experiences. The board is working hard to provide an informative program in a pleasant setting, where informal discussions complement the formal program. Your participation is key to the conference success. Plan on joining us, February 22-25, 1996.


(Web Editor's note: Data and Charts are not included in this research report.)

The association between drug use and criminal activity has been shown quite clearly in a number of studies (Ball, Rosen, Fleuck and Nurco, 1981; Blumstein, Cohen, Roth and Visher, 1986; Chaiken and Chaiken 1982, 1984, 1990; Chaiken and Johnson, 1988; Haapanen, 1990, 1991). This association has led to the widespread belief that controlling drug use can help to control other criminal activity among offender populations, through preventing crime directly related to drug use (sales, possession, and criminal activity facilitated by intoxication or aimed at obtaining money for drugs) and through facilitating the development of a more pro-social way of life. Conditions of probation or parole routinely include the prohibition of drug use, and drug testing is commonly used to determine whether these conditions are being met. Most agencies performing community supervision of offenders routinely test at least some of those offenders for the presence of drugs in their urine. Drug testing has been shown to improve outcomes for adult civil addicts under community supervision in California (Wish, Toborg, and Bellassi, 1988) and it is assumed to have a similar effect with offenders.

Drug testing serves three primary purposes in parole. First, the threat of detection through drug testing may deter offenders from using drugs and thereby reduce related criminal activity. Second, it aids in the detection of substance abuse problems, which may impair the parolee's ability to maintain employment or develop healthy social relationships, and set the stage for treatment intervention. Third, it provides a basis for monitoring the parolee's ability to meet parole conditions and thereby for evaluating parole performance and readiness for discharge from supervision. These potential benefits, however, must be viewed in the overall context of parole casework. For parolees, drug use is typically only one of a number of problems that might hinder successful reintegration into society, and the importance of controlling drug use may differ across parolees. In this context, drug testing is best thought of primarily as one tool, among many, that parole agents use to do casework. The importance of drug test information and the agent's response to a dirty test will ordinarily depend on the overall adjustment of the parolee.

Because drug testing expands the ability of a parole agent to "observe" problem behavior among parolees, its usefulness as a tool for parole supervision is not a major concern. Drug testing clearly improves the parole agent's ability to detect drug use and/or to verify suspected drug use among parolees. Still unresolved, however, are who, how often, and under what circumstances to test for drugs to provide the most cost-effective parole services.

This study addresses the relative effectiveness of different levels of routine drug testing (defined in terms of frequencies of tests) for reducing criminal behavior among parolees and for helping them to successfully reintegrate into society. The main policy issue involves the efficient use of parole resources. Drug testing takes time and money, both of which tend to be in short supply in agencies providing community supervision. Even if an agency could afford to test everyone under supervision often enough to detect any and all drug use, this may not be the best use of resources. For some, most, or even all parolees, some resources might better be spent on other services, such as assistance with more positive adjustment activities: placements, school, vocational training, counseling, and so on. In 1991, when this study was designed, the California Youth Authority (CYA) had about 6,000 offenders on active parole supervision. These parolees were tested approximately once per month, on average, at a cost of about eight dollars per test. This seemingly minimal level of drug testing cost the CYA over $500,000 per year.

What is needed is better information on the pay-off associated with the extent and frequency of drug testing (who and how often to test). If, as suggested above, a drug testing program for parolees serves primarily as a deterrent and as a tool for identifying and addressing broader adjustment problems, it stands to reason that the detection of each and every incident of drug use may not be necessary, especially if doing so requires an inordinate commitment of time and resources to drug testing. It may be that as long as agencies can detect the drug use patterns that indicate these adjustment problems, they can afford to "miss" certain drug use incidents. If a pattern of drug use is developing, even a less-than-comprehensive drug testing regimen should still detect it eventually.

The primary research question addressed by this study concerns the relationship between frequency of drug testing and parole outcome: Does more frequent testing result in a different parole outcome than less frequent testing? To date there is no direct empirical basis for hypothesizing any differences in outcome among the testing levels (Wish and Gropper, 1990). While a high frequency of testing might be expected to result in greater numbers of parole failures due to drug use (through better detection), this effect will be counterbalanced by any deterrent effects that might be related to higher frequencies of drug testing. The objective of the study will be to determine the relative benefits associated with different levels of testing, with the aim of determining the lowest practical level of routine unscheduled drug tests for offenders on parole supervision.

A secondary research question involves the impact of drug testing frequency on parole supervision itself. Do different levels of mandatory drug testing result in differences in how parole agents supervise parolees? Do they come to rely on drug testing in some cases in lieu of other methods of determining how well a parolee is doing? Does the inability to test when they feel they should result in additional workload (e.g., to identify a possible drug-use pattern)? At issue here are the factors other than the potential effects on parolee outcomes that would bear on the value of limiting or imposing various levels of drug testing on parole agents.


The sample was to include all young offenders committed directly to the California Youth Authority from juvenile or adult courts and who were released to parole over the course of one year. Other cases were to be excluded only if their possible parole exposure was very limited or if their parole circumstances made unscheduled drug tests impractical or unfeasible. All cases meeting the following basic criteria were eligible for the study:

  • a. YA cases: M-cases (easily distinguished by their identification numbers) were excluded;
  • b. California parole: no out-of-state cases;
  • c. At least 6 months remaining Youth Authority jurisdiction time;
  • d. At least 60 days available confinement time (ACT) at release.

Certain of the cases meeting these primary criteria, however, were excluded because their participation was not practical or feasible:

a. Cases with no parole conditions regarding drug testing: only a few (3%) of the YA cases currently have no testing conditions;

b. Cases with parole conditions that specify the frequency of drug testing or that mandate particular responses to dirty tests: mandated frequencies preclude random assignment to testing levels; mandated responses complicate comparisons (the response, rather than the testing interval, may produce the observed outcome);

c. Certain "special interest" cases: if the inclusion of the case could be shown to hinder the agent's ability to supervise the parolee successfully in the community;

d. Cases assigned to parole caseloads covering wide geographical areas: the agents (usually resident agents) would be unable to administer surprise tests. These caseloads were identified individually.

Based on analysis of cases being released to parole, a one-year sample period was expected to net 2,000 study participants. Sample selection was stopped after ten months, at which time, 1,963 parolees were included in the sample (Figure 1).

Since certain of the exclusion criteria involved parole placement and parole conditions, which are not known until the offender is actually ordered released to parole by the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB), eligibility could not be determined until actual release. At the time of release to parole, then, the parole unit supervisor determined whether the parolee was eligible for the study. The supervisor then contacted the Research Division, which is located in the Youth Authority's Sacramento headquarters, to report exclusions and to obtain testing level assignments for those included in the study.

In keeping with other aspects of parole supervision, testing levels were higher for each group during the first three months of parole (Re-entry). Group 1 is a no-testing group. Group 2 is tested bimonthly for 3 months and then no testing for the rest of his/her parole. Group 3 is tested monthly for 3 months, bimonthly thereafter. Group 4 is tested biweekly for 3 months and monthly thereafter. Group 5 is tested weekly for 3 months, biweekly thereafter. A computer program developed by the Rand Corporation was used to assign testing levels. The program was designed to produce a 22.5% probability of assignment to Groups 1-4 and a 10.0% probability of assignment to Group

5. The high-test group was made smaller to avoid workload problems associated with having testing levels higher than supervision levels for many parolees. All parolees in the sample will be followed for at least 24 months of parole exposure or until removal from parole for a violation or due to death. Testing procedures were not changed for the study. Parole agents are expected to test, when possible, on a random "surprise" basis. Agents may not test beyond the assigned level of testing unless they arrest and detain the parolee based on direct observation of intoxication (e.g., to prevent an intoxicated parolee from driving home) or third-party evidence of drug possession or use. In these cases, the drug test serves to verify the drug use in preparation for formal action.

Outcome measures of direct interest to this study are related to the explicit purposes of testing: a reduction in drug use, a reduction in criminal behavior, and an increase in the number of offenders successfully completing parole. The first (and most important) of these, unfortunately, is not amenable to direct measurement. The only measure of drug use available to the study is the results of the drug tests themselves. These cannot be used to compare groups in terms of actual drug use because of the built-in differences in the ability to detect sporadic, occasional use. Without a direct measure of actual drug use, the groups cannot be compared on this outcome.

Criminality will be measured in terms of arrests and arrest dispositions. Information on arrests is maintained by parole agents as long as the offender remains on parole; this information will be collected as part of the regular data collection process. California Department of Justice "rap sheets" will be used to obtain criminality information for parolees who are discharged prior to serving 24 months on parole.

Other, indirect measures of parole adjustment will also be used. One rough measure of ongoing parole adjustment is provided by the Parole Classification System. This instrument includes several indices of parole adjustment (gang activity, arrests, employment, etc.) in addition to drug use. They are filled out three times a year on each parolee, thereby providing an ongoing picture of adjustment. These data, though limited, will be used to compare groups in terms of their perceived adjustment in these areas.

Data Collection
. Six main types of data on study participants are being collected as part of this project:

1. data from the CYA's Offender Based Information Tracking System (OBITS);

2. criminal history, drug-use history and background data from hard-copy files (Master Files);

3. Parole Classification System data;

4. reports of outcome (and related) incidents on each participant;

5. information on drug testing and results (test data and lab results for the drug tests submitted for analysis); and,

6. for parolees discharged prior to the end of the study, California Criminal Identification and Investigation (CI&I) "rap sheets".

Additional information will be collected in the form of interviews with parole agents and, if possible, with parolees to identify problems with the study and factors that may affect an agency's ability to implement a drug-testing program based upon the findings. These interviews will also be used to obtain final subjective parole adjustment assessments for a sample of parolees to use for comparing parole adjustment across the groups.

The OBITS System of the California Youth Authority contains basic background and demographic information about offenders under CYA jurisdiction. From these files, we have established a basic data file for project participants to which we add information from the other sources. The OBITS system currently does not contain detailed information on the arrest histories of offenders. Nor does it contain drug-use history information that is obtained at the time an offender is processed through the reception center/clinic. These data, plus information on prior drug treatment efforts, have been coded from hard-copy Master files located at the CYA central headquarters building.

Information on progress and important activities are obtained from the Parole Classification System data file (described earlier) and from parolees' field files at the parole offices. These provide both a source of outcome data and a source of process data to use in assessing project implementation and agent responses. From the field files, we are obtaining information on study-relevant "events," such as transfers to other units, AWOLs, deaths, discharges, positive drug tests, failures to be tested (which are to be treated as dirty tests), arrests and other violations. Also recorded are the actions taken by the agents in response to these events. Parole agents are responsible for completing a form for each relevant event; the forms are collected at least quarterly by project staff. Parolees transferred to another unit are followed-up to ensure that new agents are aware of the testing level and reporting responsibility.

Drug test information and results are being obtained directly from the laboratory that contracts with the California Youth Authority to analyze the urine specimens. They provide a monthly, computerized listing of all tests and results for each CYA parolee. From these files, the data for the study participants are extracted for use in monitoring the number of tests for each parolee (for checking implementation) and for determining actual group differences in testing levels.

Finally, for parolees who are discharged from parole before the end of the study, we will obtain criminal history information from the California Department of Justice (Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification). Some study participants will be released to parole with less than 24 months of remaining jurisdiction time, but with enough to be included in the study. Once a ward is discharged from CYA jurisdiction, no routine follow-up is currently performed. For these cases, information on subsequent criminality must be obtained from rap sheets.

Data analysis

On an ongoing basis, it will be critical to determine whether the groups differ in the expected ways with regards to the numbers of tests. Testing information from the lab is used to establish whether the groups are being tested at the expected intervals. A senior supervising parole agent, who is assigned to the study, performs regular audits and discusses deviations with unit supervisors, agents, and upper-level Youth Authority administrators.

For analyzing outcomes, standard multivariate regression-type methods will be used to model outcome as a linear combination of background variables and group membership (dummy) variables. The dependent variable in these analyses would be dichotomized as success/failure, with "failure" defined in various ways: any removal from parole other than "honorable," parole revocation for a technical violation, technical violations for drug use, any arrest, violent arrest, return to institutions, etc. Independent variables will include the background variables and group membership variables. These variables are categorical (or, at best, ordinal), and would be entered as dummy variables to obtain estimates for each characteristic (African American, white, under age 20, etc.).

Logistic and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression models will be used to assess the predictive usefulness of these independent variables in the context of each group comparison. Since a large number of cases will be available for analysis, interaction effects involving background variables and groups can be explored using loglinear models (Goodman, 1970, 1971). For multi-group comparisons, PROBIT may be used to establish group differences. However, since aggregated data are required, analysis of individual differences in response to levels would not be possible. Survival or hazard models (Maltz, 1984; Linster, Lattimore and Visher, 1995) will be used to estimate differences in the probabilities of recidivism over time and to project ultimate failure rates (and, thereby success rates), taking into account differential censoring by length of follow-up.


The major activities to date have focused on implementing and monitoring the study: training of parole staff, implementation of procedures, data collection/monitoring, and parole agent interviews. As discussed above, the study sample included 1,963 cases. Case assignments were distributed as expected in terms of exclusions and proportions falling into each of the five testing groups. The five groups are also very similar to one another, as shown in Table 1, pointing to the success of the random assignment procedure. Overall, the sample selection phase of the study was very successful.

Table 2 shows the results of a two-year analysis of drug tests by testing group (April 1993 through March 1995), taking into account periods in which the parolees were not available for testing (e.g., AWOL or in custody). Both the aggregate figures (all tests divided by the total number of available months for each group) and the group means for the individual average tests per month indicate that the groups are not being tested at the assigned levels, although there are significant differences among the groups. Ongoing monitoring of the drug testing program has found that most parole agents are making a concerted effort to test at the assigned levels. The failure to achieve the assigned levels of testing has been the result of a number of factors, including parole agent reductions and absences (leaving temporarily unsupervised caseloads), peculiar circumstances that prevent routine testing (such as placement in short-term residential programs), and errors. The California Youth Authority's parole administration made a concerted effort to encourage compliance and enforce the testing standards, and some improvements were made over time. These problems are being studied carefully in order to determine their possible implications for implementing a program of drug testing at pre-assigned levels for unselected parolees. Parole agent interviews will attempt to determine the reasons for their not being able (or, in some cases, willing) to test at assigned levels. These interviews will focus on workload issues, practical considerations and philosophical issues, such as the perceived inappropriateness of continued testing of parolees at high levels despite their positive adjustment to parole.

Results of preliminary analysis of the proportion failing parole (removed from parole for an arrest or other parole violation) as of 8/16/95 are shown in Table 3. The overall results, combined with the data on actual drug-testing levels from Table 2, are displayed graphically in Figure 2. These results include all cases, regardless of the amount of follow-up time they have, and do not include information on activities of parole successes after they were discharged from CYA jurisdiction. The figures indicate that roughly similar proportions of each group had failed as of August 16, 1995. Further, the types of violations (law violations and technical violations of parole) were also similar across groups. Small differences observable in these tables are not statistically significant. If these and other preliminary results can be substantiated by the remaining statistical analyses, taking additional data into account, they would suggest that parolees tested only upon arrest do as well on parole as parolees who are tested eight times as much (Figure 2). Such results would also have profound implications for the value of drug testing (and similar monitoring tools) in community supervision settings.

These results would also serve as a basis for better understanding community supervision of serious offenders in general. Interviews with parole agent will focus on possible reasons for the weak relationship between drug testing levels and outcomes on parole. It may be, for example, that parole agents are able to adjust to different amounts of drug test information by using alternative means of getting information on drug abuse and other patterns of unwanted behavior. It may also be that drug use is not particularly important in determining parole outcomes for these, very serious, offenders.


This study focuses on drug testing as a part of parole supervision, and will provide information on the relationship between the amount of drug testing and the successful completion of parole for a large and varied sample of young, serious offenders. These results will be useful for helping paroling agencies decide what proportion of their (typically scarce) resources to devote to this activity. It may also provide these agencies with information on the kinds of offenders for whom drug testing seems to have the greatest impact, thereby helping these agencies target their drug-testing resources most efficiently.

Beyond these straightforward policy issues regarding drug testing per se, the study will also provide information on the potential organizational effects of policies regarding the amount of drug testing. Through interviews with parole agents, the study will identify ways in which drug testing interacts with agent's styles of supervision, particularly with respect to balancing the dual nature of the parole agent's role, as cop and social worker. In addition to a general organizational policy regarding the value and purpose of drug testing, each agent has his/her own attitudes and beliefs on these matters. These attitudes affect how and when drug tests are performed and how the results are used. Policies regarding drug testing levels may therefore differ in their application for different agencies and for different personnel within agencies. An understanding of these social factors should be useful to any agency considering the implementation or modification of policies regarding the amount (or targeting) of drug testing.


Ball, J., Rosen, L., Fleuck, J., and Nurco, D. (1981) The Criminality of Heroin Addicts When Addicted and When Off Opiates. In J. Inciardi (Ed.), The Drugs-Crime Connection. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Roth, J., and Visher, C. (1986) Criminal Careers and "Career Criminals." Volume 1. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

Chaiken, J. and Chaiken, M. (1982) Varieties of Criminal Behavior. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.

Chaiken, J. and Chaiken, M. (1984) Offender Types and Public Policy. Crime and Delinquency. 30 (2), 195-224.

Chaiken, J. and Chaiken, M. (1990) Drugs and Predatory Crime. In J. Wilson and M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and Justice, Volume 13: Drugs and Crime. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Chaiken, M. and Johnson, B. (1988) Characteristics of Different Types of Drug-Involved Offenders. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Goodman, L. (1970) The Multivariate Analysis of Qualitative Data: Interactions Among Multiple Classifications. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 65, 226-265.

Goodman, L. (1971) The Analysis of Multi-Dimensional Contingency Tables: Stepwise Procedures and Direct Estimation Methods for Building Models for Multiple Classifications. Technometrics, 13, 33-61.

Haapanen, R. (1990) Selective Incapacitation and the Serious Offender: A Longitudinal Study of Criminal Career Patterns. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Haapanen, R. (1991) Patterns of Violent Crime: A Longitudinal Investigation. Sacramento: California Youth Authority.

Linster, R., Lattimore, P., and Visher, C. (1995) Predicting Rearrest for Violent Serious Youthful Offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 32, 54-83.

Maltz, M. (1984) Recidivism. New York: Academic Press.

Wish, E. and Gropper, B. (1990) Drug Testing in the Criminal Justice System: Methods, Research and Applications. In J. Wilson and M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and Justice, Volume 13: Drugs and Crime. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wish, E. Toborg, M. and Bellassi, J. (1988) Identifying Drug Users and Monitoring them During Conditional Release. National Institute of Justice Briefing Paper. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.


The 1996 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences will be held March 12-16, 1996 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The theme is The Future of Crime and Justice. Persons interested in participating should contact a program committee member or Lee Ross, Program Chair, University of Wisconsin, School of Social Welfare/Box 786, 1133 Enderis Hall, Milwaukee, WI 53201, phone: 414-229-6134, fax: 414-229-5311: Abstracts and information are due to coordinators by October 15, 1995 and participants will be notified of the acceptance/rejection of abstracts by November 15, 1995.


The 1996 Western Society of Criminology Annual Meeting is scheduled for February 22-25, 1996 at the Red Lion Hotel in Rohnert Park (Sonoma), California. The theme of the conference is Reassessing Crime, Realizing Justice: Collaborating for a New Agenda. Please contact Pat Jackson, Department of Criminal Justice Administration, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California 94928, 707-664-2126 to submit panel or paper ideas.