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Treating Repeat Parole Violators: A Review of Pennsylvania's Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) Program

NCJ Number
Rachel Porter
Date Published
October 2002
22 pages
This study examined the planning, implementation, and outcome of Pennsylvania's coordinated use of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) funding from the outset of the initiative.
The findings suggest that although the results of Pennsylvania’s Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program compared favorably with those achieved in other drug treatment programs, only 32 percent of the sample completed the program successfully or remained active. RSAT was successful in reducing the upfront time that the offenders would have spent in prison; up front time includes days spent in prison after the violation but before the assignment to RSAT and days spent during RSAT’s first phase. The program successfully identified a target group of serious offenders, program managers worked out a balance between security and treatment concerns, and offenders spent less time in prison before and during their participation than they otherwise would have. Few RSAT participants were returned to prison for new crimes. As participants gained freedom, moving to community corrections centers in phase II and to parole supervision in phase III, they were more likely to fail. Of the prisoners who entered RSAT during the study period, 89 percent completed the in-prison treatment of phase I, 63 percent of those who entered phase II completed it successfully and another 15 percent were still active in this phase, and 56 percent of those who entered phase III either completed it successfully or were still active. The State should consider implementing a policy of gradual sanctions for technical violations. An appropriated graduated sanctions regimen could allow parole officers to track parolees under their supervision and advance the program’s goal of reducing time spent in prison and its associated costs. People with long histories of criminal activity and drug problems often must overcome additional problems such as mental illness, unemployment, homelessness, and adjusting to life outside of prison. Combined with addiction, the challenges facing this population are not easy to surmount. 6 tables, 1 appendix