Prison sentencing increases the risk of unemployment among illegal heroin users in Taiwan

Charles Tzu Chi Lee, Chiu Mieh Huang, Li Chun Chang, Shih Wen Wang, Hsiao Pei Hsu, Jung Yu Liao, Jong Long Guo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have rarely explored the effect of type of sentencing on employment status among illegal heroin users, therefore, we aims to examine the association of the sentencing types and employment outcomes among illegal heroin users in Taiwan. Methods: Participants with illegal heroin use were identified through the national prison register system and deferred prosecution system: 2406 with deferred prosecutions, 4741 with observation and rehabilitation, 15 compulsory rehabilitation and 1958 sentenced to prison in calendar 2011. Logistic regression models were built to estimate the effect of sentencing type on unemployment status at 2 years after release. Stratification analysis was conducted to determine the effect of sentencing type based on the offender's employment status before sentencing. Results: Illegal heroin users receiving a prison sentence were more than twice as likely to be unemployed 2 years later than those receiving deferred prosecution. The unemployment rate was also higher for those with observation and rehabilitation and compulsory rehabilitation than deferred prosecution in the 2 years following sentencing. Males, older users, without a job before sentencing, divorced or widowed and higher prior drug use criminal records were also higher risk of unemployment. Subgroup analysis by prior employment status revealed that being sentenced to prison, observation and rehabilitation and compulsory rehabilitation affected the subsequent employment status only for those heroin users with a job before sentencing. The strength of associations showed dose-dependent relationship between different sentencing types (sentenced to prison> compulsory rehabilitation> observation and rehabilitation) and employment outcomes. Conclusions: Illegal heroin users who receive a prison sentence have a much higher risk of unemployment than those who receive deferred prosecution after controlling potential confounders, especially those who had a job before sentencing. The implication is the stronger freedom of punishment, the higher risk of unemployment outcomes. Our study support that illegal heroin user is legally regarded as a patient before being regarded as a criminal, so giving priority to quit addition rather than imprisonment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number77
JournalSubstance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 12


  • Compulsory rehabilitation
  • Deferred prosecution
  • Employment rate
  • Heroin users
  • Observation and rehabilitation
  • Prison sentence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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