Article

'Discursive struggles' between criminal justice sanctions and health interventions for people who use drugs: a qualitative exploration of diversion policy and practice in Scotland

Citation

Price T, Parkes T & Malloch M (2020) 'Discursive struggles' between criminal justice sanctions and health interventions for people who use drugs: a qualitative exploration of diversion policy and practice in Scotland. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687637.2020.1775180

Abstract
Amidst growing recognition that people who use drugs are often vulnerable and in need of health-focused support, international conventions and national priorities on personal drug use are changing with emphasis shifting from criminal justice to health narratives. In Scotland, there has been a move toward health-led drug policymaking, and yet little is known about how diversion operates in this context. An exploratory qualitative study was conducted utilizing semi-structured interviews with professionals holding lead, strategic-level roles in Scottish diversion policy and practice (n = 15). Interview transcripts were thematically analyzed using a structured framework technique. Findings show that the term ‘diversion’ is used to refer to criminal justice-initiated drug treatment routes, both pre- and post-conviction. Unlike many international examples, Scottish diversions tend to embed health-focused support within criminal sanctions, rather than acting as alternatives. Participants expressed the view that the term diversion implied a shift from criminal justice sanctions to health-led support that did not occur in reality. We, therefore, argue that the term diversion may function to mute a ‘discursive struggle’ between criminal justice sanctions and health interventions for people who use drugs, obscuring a growing gap between aspirational governance principles and institutional and lived realities.

Keywords
Diversion; public health; drugs; criminalization; devolved policy; de-criminalization; drug treatment

Notes
Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Journal
Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy

StatusIn Press
FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date online12/06/2020
Date accepted by journal22/05/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31309
PublisherInforma UK Limited
ISSN0968-7637
eISSN1465-3370