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Effectiveness of Coerced Treatment for Drug-Abusing Offenders

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 62 Issue: 1 Dated: June 1998 Pages: 3-10
D Farabee; M Prendergast; M D Anglin
Date Published
8 pages
This study reviewed the substance abuse literature to examine the effectiveness of various levels of coercion in promoting offender participation in treatment.
Generally, this review of 11 empirical studies of compulsory substance abuse treatment supports the use of the criminal justice system as an effective source of treatment referral, as well as a means for enhancing retention and compliance; however, the divergence among these results leads to a number of additional conclusions. Five of the studies reported a positive relationships between legal coercion and treatment outcomes, with four reporting no difference and two studies reporting a negative relationship. The authors note that the research emphasis on external pressure to enter treatment, along with its relative success, has largely eclipsed the potential role of internal motivation. There is strong support for the role of internal motivation as a predictor of program retention and positive treatment outcomes. The authors also argue that substance-abusing offenders early in their criminal careers may be best served with briefer interventions, rather than mandating them to programs targeted for more impaired populations. The final conclusion derived from the variation in the reviewed studies is the importance of fidelity in program implementation. Programs that serve criminal justice clients must maintain close linkages with referral sources if the threat of criminal justice sanctions is to be taken seriously. This paper also outlines Anglin's and Hser's (1991) recommendations for the design and implementation of drug treatment programs that serve legally coerced clients. 1 table and 41 references