Learning with conviction: Exploring the relationship between criminal legal system involvement and substance use and recovery outcomes for students in collegiate recovery programs

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2024 Apr 1:257:111127. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111127. Epub 2024 Feb 13.


This study examines the association of criminal legal system involvement and age with substance use and academic related outcomes among students involved in collegiate recovery programs in the US. We examined 435 students in collegiate recovery using a national survey of college students. We computed differences between non-system-involved, system-involved with no incarceration history, and formerly incarcerated participants on relevant substance use and recovery-related outcomes. The results provide evidence that there are significant differences between those system-involved and those who are not. Specifically, we found significant differences across the outcomes of recovery capital, quality of life, hours worked per week, and substance use disorder symptoms, but after controlling for relevant covariates, only the differences between hours worked (non-system involved and system involved < formerly incarcerated) and substance use disorder symptoms (non-system involved < system involved and formerly incarcerated) remained significant. The study contributes to the literature by demonstrating that nearly half of the collegiate students in recovery in this sample have legal system-involvement and a third have been incarcerated. Further, interventions for collegiate recovery programs may need to be adjusted to account for legal system involvement among their members.

Keywords: Addiction recovery; Collegiate recovery; Criminal legal system involvement; Formerly incarcerated; Recovery capital; Substance use.

MeSH terms

  • Criminals*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Students
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Universities