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Promising Practices Guidelines for Residential Substance Abuse Treatment

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2021
54 pages

This report assists correctional administrators and practitioners at the state and county levels in establishing and maintaining Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) programs that adhere to the promising practices indicated by research and related standards for effectiveness in treating persons with substance-use disorders.


The federal Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) for State Prisoners Program assists states and local governments in developing and implementing substance-use disorder (SUD) treatment programs in state, local, and tribal correctional and detention facilities. RSAT also provides funding to create and maintain community-based aftercare services for those released from incarceration. RSAT programs must provide a course of comprehensive individual and group substance abuse treatment services in residential treatment facilities separate from housing for a prison or jail general population. The program must last at least 6 months. The current report briefly reviews four RSAT programs that have been judged to be “promising” based on evaluations. These evaluations show that promising RSAT programs vary in such characteristics as the gender served, geographical locations, treatment modalities, length, structure, and aftercare. The guidelines presented in this report are considered “promising” rather than “evidence-based” practices, qualifying as “guidelines” but not “standards.” These guidelines are intended to encourage the research and feedback required for the development of evidence-based standards for RSAT programs. The “guidelines” address 1) intake, screening, and assessment; 2) core treatment components; 3) core program components; 4) provision of medications and health care; 5) continuing care and reintegration; 6) staffing and training; and 7) measuring results. 8 online resources and appended supplementary information

Date Published: January 1, 2021