Federal Prisoners' View of Peer Counselors in a Residential Drug Treatment Program

Jennifer L. Rounds-Bryant, Federal Correctional Institution
Bernadette Pelissier, Federal Bureau of Prisons

Drug treatment can be viewed as secondary and tertiary prevention of criminal behavior because of its effectiveness at decreasing both criminal behavior and drug use. Despite the breadth of information available about drug treatment, there is little information on the topic from the perspective of actual treatment participants. The purpose of this study was to address this gap in the literature by characterizing the role of treatment program peer counselors, including their advantages and disadvantages, from the perspective of participants in one of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' standardized residential drug abuse treatment programs (DAP). The study also addressed the correctional question of whether peer counselors had real or perceived power over other DAP participants. A random selection of DAP participants who had been in the program for 6 months or more (n=15; 20% of eligible participants) were interviewed using a series of open-ended questions. The results indicated that the DAP participants valued the peer counselors for being sounding boards, problems solvers, and fountains of information. Further, participants did not view peer counselors as having power over them. These results contribute to our understanding of both treatment process and program implementation.

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Updated 05/20/2006