A recent review of drug treatment aftercare in the criminal justice system concluded that the “precise nature of aftercare services needed [by offenders] is not well understood” (Pelissier, Jones, & Cadigan, 2007
). Furthermore, these authors called for more research to “identify the most effective type and intensity of aftercare” as well as the relationship of drug treatment to other types of services provided to offenders as they transition to the community (page XXX). The study findings directly address this lack of knowledge by identifying the organizational characteristics of correctional and community based drug treatment programs for offenders and the relationship of these characteristics with the content of services and type of treatment provided.
The study findings have shown that correctional and community drug abuse treatment programs for offenders have several areas of divergence with regard to treatment approaches and service delivery. Overall, programs in the community were more likely to be specialized facilities for substance abuse treatment. Accordingly, community programs employed more staff who had been trained in substance abuse treatment. Community programs also scored consistently higher on various measures of treatment climate that express commitment to and importance of drug abuse treatment, relative to other types of services. Community-based programs provided a broader range of wrap-around services, in addition to core components of drug abuse treatment, and this relationship was retained in the multivariate models that controlled for other organizational characteristics.
Several aspects of correctional programs reflect their institutional location and mission. Correctional programs had, on average, longer planned treatment durations, provided services tailored to more types of client populations, and were more likely to use written treatment protocols. Dedicated drug abuse treatment units were less likely to be sited in correctional programs, and accordingly, had a smaller proportion of staff with specialized training in this area. Consistent with previous literature, correctional programs scored higher on the TC treatment orientation and this relationship was retained in the multivariate model.
With regard to the cognitive behavioral therapy orientation, there was no difference in the bivariate relationship between correctional and community programs. The strongest predictor of this orientation in the multivariate models was a treatment climate measure reflecting greater importance of substance abuse treatment. This finding may reflect a higher commitment to treatment quality, as seen in greater reliance upon an evidence-based treatment practice.
The study findings have implications for developing effective transitions between correctional and community-based treatment, particularly since research has shown that post-release treatment in the community significantly reduces the likelihood of recidivism, compared with in-prison treatment only (Butzin, 2002
; Butzin, Martin, & Inciardi, 2005
). The findings suggests that differences in treatment approach and orientation between correctional and community-based treatment may result in discontinuity of treatment approaches during the community re-entry phase, particularly regarding the differing emphases placed on the principles of TC-based treatment settings. Whether continuity of approach is related to better post-release outcomes is an area for research; one could hypothesize that continuity of approach is less important than providing services that offenders need to improve their chances of successful reintegration into the community. The greater provision of ancillary services within community-based programs may reflect the need to equip offenders with a broader range of services, including housing, vocational, and family-related, as they prepare to re-enter the community.
Several limitations need to be addressed with regard to the survey data, which generally stem from the survey design. Although all efforts were made to obtain a high survey response-rate, the resultant sample of programs cannot be considered representative of the universe of correctional or community treatment programs for offenders. However, it does represent the most comprehensive survey to date of these providers. Further, there were large amounts of missing data on some variables, most likely stemming from the use of a mail-in survey. Although we addressed this problem through multiple imputation, it may have constrained our ability to determine significant relationships among some variables. Lastly, our analyses were conducted solely with data from program directors, and although it may be assumed that they have a large influence on various aspects of treatment climate and processes, their views are not necessarily congruent with those of online staff. Other papers in this volume directly address this issue.
In sum, the findings provide a foundation for understanding the types of supportive services and treatment approaches available in both correctional- and community-based treatment programs that serve drug-abusing offenders. At present, there is increasing emphasis on the use of evidence-based treatment approaches within programs that treat offenders, as well as pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of both in-prison and community-based treatment. In response to these imperatives, providers to offender populations may be expected to adopt a wider array of treatment practices as well as to meet specific performance objectives. Future research can build upon these findings to better understand how organizational characteristics are associated with the ability of programs to respond to these changes in the drug abuse treatment system and how they impact treatment provided to offenders and their associated outcomes.