Addressing the Issue of Problem Gambling in the Criminal Justice System: A Series of Case Studies

Nigel E. Turner, Steve McAvoy, Peter Ferentzy, Flora I. Matheson, Chris Myers, Farah Jindani, Nina Littman-Sharp, Jan Malat.

The prevalence rates of problem gambling in the adult correctional population are 5 to 10 times higher than those found in the general population. Yet little has been published about dealing with problem gamblers in correctional settings. We conducted a literature review and interviewed 16 key informants who provide services to clients experiencing problem gambling and/or who have worked in the criminal justice system. Our objective was to gain greater understanding of programming for problem gambling for clients who are involved in the criminal justice system, with a particular focus on Ontario. The published literature on this topic is remarkably sparse. In fact, only two peer-reviewed published studies were identified that formally evaluated a treatment program for problem gambling for clients in these settings. However, we uncovered a small number of programs (10) that had been developed for, and delivered to, this population, including a gambling treatment court in Buffalo, Gamblers Anonymous, outpatient treatment during probation or parole, brief psychoeducational programs, brief therapy, a full intense treatment program, and inpatient treatment after release. We present a series of short case studies of these programs. Although some programs have been delivered within correctional institutions, others have been offered either after release or prior to sentencing. A major issue is the lack of awareness of problem gambling in the criminal justice system among judges, lawyers, wardens, corrections workers, and parole officers. The results are discussed in terms of issues and opportunities for programming for problem gamblers in the criminal justice system.


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