Failure After Success: Why Do Some Mandated Clients of Residential Drug Treatment Recidivate After Treatment Completion?

Hung-En Sung, Columbia University
Steven Belenko, Columbia University

Past research has shown that diverted drug-abusing offenders who successfully completed treatment are less likely to recidivate than treatment dropouts and non-treated offenders. Yet a significant portion of treated offenders returned to crime after treatment completion. Identifying correlates of recidivism among treatment completers will improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying treatment, recidivism, and crime desistance. Background, treatment, and post-treatment data from 156 mandated clients of long-term residential treatment who successfully completed the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison program (Brooklyn, New York) were examined. Findings revealed that recidivists among DTAP graduates were younger, had more juvenile arrests, disliked treatment rules, found treatment rules oppressive, viewed treatment as unnecessarily long, and were unemployed and living alone after treatment. In contrast, older age, fewer juvenile arrests, cognitive and behavioral treatment compliance, and post-treatment employment and living with spouses or children facilitated the maintenance of crime-free lifestyles. Theory and policy implications are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006