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Post-Release Substance Abuse Treatment for Criminal Offenders: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 19 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 389-407
Kathryn E. McCollister; Michael T. French; James A. Inciardi; Clifford A. Butzin; Steven S. Martin; Robert M. Hooper
Date Published
December 2003
19 pages
This article provides a cost-effectiveness analysis of Delaware’s CREST Outreach Center.
The CREST Outreach Center is a work release therapeutic community and aftercare program for criminal offenders. Standard work release participants were compared to CREST work release participants to determine differences in program cost and effectiveness, where effectiveness was measured by the number of days reincarcerated during the period 18-months post-release from prison. A secondary cost-effectiveness analysis was performed that compared two subgroups within the CREST program. Treatment cost and days reincarcerated over the follow-up period were analyzed for CREST participants that continued treatment in the aftercare program and CREST work release-only participants. The results demonstrated that involvement in the CREST program reduced reincarceration days for substance abusing criminal offenders relative to standard work release participants. The estimated average cost per avoided incarceration day was $65. This cost per avoided incarceration day is actually slightly higher than the average daily cost of incarceration in Delaware ($57), suggesting that the CREST work release program was not cost effective. It is important to emphasize that the investment in CREST is not only buying reductions in incarceration in the first 18 months following release. Potential benefits include averted incarceration beyond the 18-month follow-up period, reduced drug use, stable employment, improved relationships with family and the community, and a lessened dependence on the welfare system. These are potentially important outcomes resulting from treatment that were beyond the scope of measurement for this analysis. If future studies could estimate and compare a more comprehensive range of costs and benefits over a longer follow-up period, policymakers would be equipped with a broad range of information to understand the impact of providing substance abuse treatment in criminal justice settings. 3 tables, 11 footnotes, 45 references