The Effect of Criminal History and Status on Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes

Dean R. Gerstein, NORC at the University of Chicago
Hee-Choon Shin, National Opinion Research Center
Zhiwei Zhang, National Opinion Research Center

Many studies have shown that substance abuse treatment has an effect not only on substance use but on criminal activities that are especially correlated with substance use, such as drug trafficking, driving while intoxicated, burglary, larceny, theft, and fraud. Other studies have indicated that treatment of individuals who are in various stages of criminal justice processing can be beneficial (Hubbard et al., 1989; Simpson & Sells, 1990, Gerstein & Harwood, 1990; Gerstein et al., 1994, 1997; Simpson & Curry, 1997). Some kinds of drug treatment in correctional institutions show promising effects on recidivism rates ( Pearson & Lipton, 1999). A number of studies have reported that clients enrolled in treatment while under pressure or directives from criminal justice processes (sometimes referred to as "coerced" into treatment) stay in treatment for longer periods than others, suggesting that strengthening or expanding these approaches would be good policy. However, other studies, including previous reports from the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES), have suggested that pressure to enter treatment from criminal justice sources yields slightly worse or neither better nor worse outcomes than pressure from social, personal, or health-related sources (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1995; Gerstein et al., 1997; Sechrest and Sichor, 2001). In the present study, we classify all NTIES clients by criminal justice history and status at the time treatment started, describe the characteristics of these status groups, and determine the relationship between criminal justice status and treatment outcome.

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Updated 05/20/2006