The criminal justice system has emerged as a primary service delivery system for nearly 9 million adults and adolescents facing challenges of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and other service needs in the United States (National Institute of Justice, 2003
; Taxman et al., 2007b
; Young et al., 2007
), and many other offenders worldwide. The overwhelming needs of the population, compounded by accompanying public safety and health issues, has spurred a growing body of research focused on service delivery within the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Central to this research is an interest in characteristics of programs, services, and systems that address the goals of reducing crime and improving public health and social productivity. Increasingly, criminal justice administrators are required to stretch limited programming budgets to achieve each of these multifaceted goals. Decisions about where to allocate the scarce dollars available for service delivery are difficult for administrators to make (French et al., 2006
One factor complicating service delivery is the scarcity of services relative to demand, a problem that is especially acute for offender populations (Belenko and Peugh, 2005
; Duffee and Carlson, 1996
). It is a well-known problem that the availability of treatment services in the community lags behind the need for such services (Office of Applied Studies, 2005
). Current research demonstrates that the same problem is manifested in the criminal justice system in which the need for services is greater. For example, recent estimates indicate that approximately two-thirds of jail inmates were regular drug users and that more than half reported using drugs in the month prior to their incarceration (Karberg and James, 2005
; Mumola, 1999
reports similar prevalence rates for prison inmates). Yet, in the United States, less than ten percent of the daily population can access substance abuse services, and the services tend to not be intensive enough for offenders’ needs (Taxman et al., 2007b
. This same nationally representative survey of substance abuse treatment in the criminal justice system (the National Criminal Justice Treatment Practices Survey, NCJTP; Taxman et al., 2007a
) demonstrated that in all segments of the correctional system—jail, prison, and probation/parole—approximately 50% offer basic drug treatment services (e.g., alcohol and drug education, substance abuse group counseling lasting 4 hours or less per week, relapse prevention groups). However, the percentage of offenders that actually receive the services is much lower (Taxman, et al., 2007b
). Access rates are lower for individuals incarcerated in jail facilities or under community supervision as compared to prison. Young et al. (2007)
report similar findings for youth in juvenile justice facilities.
Clearly, providing substance abuse services of sufficient coverage and intensity to meet offenders’ need for treatment is an expensive proposition. First, in addition to the sheer size of the population, substance abusing offenders typically present with more complex clinical issues than nonoffenders (e.g., co-occurring disorders, risk for HIV and Hepatitis C contraction), complicating conventional treatment delivery (Chandler et al., 2004
; Ditton, 1999
) and increasing the cost (Green et al., 2004
). Second, administrators in corrections environments are responsible for ensuring that their facilities/offices offer an array of services to offenders intended to fulfill various purposes—criminal deterrence, punishment, victim restitution, and rehabilitation. To be sure, the extent to which local administrators have control over their budgets and the services their facility offers certainly varies from state to state (as well as nation to nation), with some executives exercising more control than others. In the United States, funding mechanisms for substance abuse treatment vary from state to state, with some states providing funding through the Department of Corrections and others through state public health or substance abuse agencies. Regardless of these complications, however, the bottom line is the same: the more services facilities offer, the higher their costs.
One factor that should influence which services are offered is their effectiveness in reaching the goal of improving public safety, and addressing public health concerns, as well as increasing the prospects of improving the social productivity of the offenders themselves. A recent focus on evidence-based practices (EBPs) has provided a framework for understanding how substance abuse treatment and other services may provide a means of protecting society by reducing the recidivism rates of offenders. The EBP movement in treatment identifies the services that are likely to improve the offender’s prospects to live as a law-abiding citizen upon release back to the community. By contrast, in corrections EBPs are focused on identifying systems features that can maximize the results from delivery of treatment services and programs through the selection of offenders with criminogenic factors that are amenable to intervention. The more aware of EBPs, treatment interventions, and correctional system features administrators are, the more likely they are to implement them. And, as good public servants, the more likely that administrators are aware of EBPs, the more likely that they will allocate programming dollars towards their adoption and implementation (assuming that they have the control to do so; Chandler et al., 2004
While several studies have reported that treatment staff interest in and attitudes toward treatment services, including EBPs, influence the extent to which they are adopted by treatment agencies (Fuller et al., 2007
; Henggeler et al., 2007
; Kirby et al., 2006
; Simpson et al., 2007
), the literature examining administrator attitudes is limited except for recent work by Fuller et al. (2007)
, Moore et al. (2004)
, Munoz-Plaza et al. (2006)
, and Willenbring et al. (2004)
. These studies tend to find that administrators support EBP adoption but also perceive that in order to effectively adopt EBPs, they would need to address barriers such as insufficient staff time and staff’s lack of knowledge or skills in EBP use. To our knowledge, only two studies have focused on how corrections administrator attitudes are associated with the extent to which they report using EBPs. A nationally representative survey of adult corrections administrators (using data collected in the NCJTP) revealed that administrators that support offender rehabilitation are more likely to use EBPs (Friedmann et al., 2007
; see also Henderson et al., 2008
). A companion study of treatment directors in juvenile justice programs indicated that greater commitment by these individuals to their organizations was associated with more EBP use (Henderson et al., 2007
). However, these studies did not consider the extent to which administrator attitudes influence decisions regarding which types of programs receive the greatest support.
The current study uses advanced latent variable modeling techniques (specifically latent class analysis, LCA) to examine administrators’ ratings of the importance of a variety of services relative to substance abuse treatment. Specifically, administrators were asked to rate the importance of a given service relative to substance abuse treatment on a scale of 1 (much less important) to 5 (much more important). Duffee and Carlson (1996)
conceptualize such decisions as necessarily resolving competing value premises regarding substance abuse treatment services for offenders. Specifically, these authors regard “treatment on demand” as a worthwhile policy ideal, but assert that, ultimately, it does not realistically consider the resource allocation decisions that many administrators confront. Administrators are often required to resolve conflicts between value premises on two dimensions: 1) who should receive services, and 2) what services should be provided, although it is likely that most administrators will have more control over the former. These are practical dilemmas in drug abuse policy and practice. We argue that corrections administrators must implicitly resolve similar conflicts between value premises when determining which services are prioritized in their agencies.
LCA allows us to derive subtypes of administrators’ value orientations with respect to the importance of substance abuse treatment. We assumed that at least three classes of value orientations would emerge, one suggesting that all services are equally important, a second suggesting that substance abuse treatment is more important than other services, and a third suggesting that other services are more important than substance abuse treatment. However, given the limited research on administrator value orientations, we propose this as an exploratory research question.
Our second goal was to examine to what extent group membership would predict the degree to which administrators report their organization using EBPs, and to examine correlates of group membership, specifically administrators’ attitudes toward offender rehabilitation, and facility type (adult versus juvenile and state versus county). We hypothesized: (1) that the facilities having administrators reporting that substance abuse treatment has high importance would be using more EBPs; (2) that administrator attitudes consistent with crime reduction through offender rehabilitation would be more likely to rate substance abuse treatment with high importance than administrators that did not (consistent with previous research, Friedmann et al., 2007
); (3) that administrators of juvenile justice agencies would be more likely to rate substance abuse treatment as high importance given the underlying child-saving premise of the juvenile justice system (Nissen and Kraft, 2007); and (4) that administrators working in state prisons would be more likely to rate substance abuse treatment with high importance than administrators working in jails or probation and parole facilities (consistent with previous research; Friedmann et al., 2007
). Finally, we explored whether administrators’ attitudes regarding the importance of substance abuse treatment varied depending on the region of the country in which they are located and the extent to which corrections and substance abuse treatment agencies carried out joint activities focused on providing substance abuse treatment to offenders.