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Screening and Referral for Substance Abuse Treatment in the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
25 pages
This article reviews the components of an effective screening and referral protocol for inmates in need of prison-based drug and alcohol treatment.
The authors explain that the number of inmates in need of drug or alcohol treatment continues to grow, even as the availability of prison-based treatment declines. Since it has become impossible to treat every drug-involved offender, the authors contend that the use of an objective screening and referral protocol can provide a consistent means of identifying those inmates who would most benefit from prison-based treatment. The authors claim that the development of an effective screening and referral protocol depends upon three key factors: selecting an instrument that is appropriate for a correctional environment, obtaining truthful responses from inmates, and providing appropriate treatment options. Selecting an effective instrument to assess the need for drug treatment involves evaluating its accuracy, length, cost, detection effectiveness, and what type of staff training would be necessary to administer the instrument. Obtaining truthful responses from inmates depends upon the perceived consequences of disclosing drug problems and the setting of the review process. The authors then review three screening instruments that have been developed for use in a variety of community settings: the Alcohol Dependence Scale, the Simple Screening Instrument, and the Texas Christian University Drug Screen. These are all brief screening instruments that may work well in correctional settings. In conclusion, the authors stress that any screening instrument is useless unless appropriate treatment services are available. References, appendix

Date Published: January 1, 2000