Substance Abuse Treatment Experience Over Five Years for Treated and Untreated Prisoners: Impact on Relapse and Recidivism

Michael Prendergast, UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs
Elizabeth Hall, University of California - Los Angeles
Harry K. Wexler, National Development & Research Institute
Gerald Melnick, N. D. R. I., Inc.

Previous research has found that substance-abusing offenders who participate in prison-based treatment (usually therapeutic community treatment) are less likely to relapse to drug use or return to prison at one-year post release than those who do not participate in treatment while in prison. In addition, graduates of prison-based treatment who enter community-based treatment following release to parole have lower relapse and recidivism rates than those who do not. By three years post release, most studies have found that differences in relapse and recidivism rates between treatment and comparison subjects disappear. For both treatment and comparison subjects, long-term success (however defined and measured) may be related to continuing or episodic participation in treatment. Using the full sample from the evaluation of the Amity prison-based treatment program, this paper examines the pattern of treatment participation over five years with respect to number of treatment episodes, type of treatment, length of treatment participation, legal pressure to enter treatment, reasons for entering and leaving treatment, and client perceptions of treatment. The study also examined the impact of differential treatment experience, for both Amity treatment and comparison subjects, on drug use and criminal justice status at five years following release from prison.

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Updated 05/20/2006