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Evaluation of Prison-Based Therapeutic Community Drug Treatment Programs in Pennsylvania Final Report

NCJ Number
Wayne N. Welsh Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2003
141 pages
This study examined multiple post-release outcomes for inmates who participated in Therapeutic Community (TC) drug treatment programs at five State prisons.
Findings revealed that of the three major outcomes examined, TC significantly reduced the likelihood of reincarceration and rearrest but not drug relapse. Post-release employment was strongly related to a lower likelihood of reincarceration, rearrest, and drug relapse. Controlling for selections differences (criminal history and assessed level of need for drug treatment) reincarceration rates were significantly lower for TC inmates (30 percent) than comparison inmates (41 percent). Strong, positive effects of TC were even surpassed in magnitude by postrelease employment, with inmates employed full-time showing substantially lower rates of reincarceration, rearrest, and drug relapse, even when controlling for initial selection differences between the TC and comparison groups. With the exception of drug relapse, programmatic effects were invariant across the five institutions. Some inconsistencies in inmate selection and termination procedures across the five institutions were found: two TC programs tended to recruit older, lower-risk inmates than the other TC programs; and attrition rates varied substantially (5-71 percent) across TC programs. TC inmates may in some cases have psychological needs that are not being fully addressed, as indicated by Resident Evaluation of Self and Treatment (REST) inmate self-report survey and CRC (counselor ratings) change scores and coefficients predictive of recidivism. Correctional administrators, working with researcher, drug treatment specialists, and program managers, should identify clear and consistent standards for assessment of inmate psychological needs. Two of the TC programs did not use pull-ups or learning measures and individual counseling was provided inconsistently across most programs. At the time of the study, there was a lack of computerized data on several measures such as admissions and discharges from prison-based treatment programs, and participation in aftercare treatment that would facilitate program evaluation. The sample consisted of 2,809 inmates who participated in TC drug treatment programs at 5 State prisons. Tables, references, appendices