The Additive Treatment Needs of Drug Users: Examining the Characteristics of Criminal Justice Referrals to Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Zachary Hamilton, Rutgers University
Christopher J. Sullivan, Rutgers University

ABSTRACT
Criminal justice sentencing policy regarding drug users has been the focus of much debate. Some suggest that increases in prison populations over the past twenty years are largely due to more punitive sentences for low-level drug offenders. With the development of drug courts and mandatory treatment policies (e.g., California Proposition 36) a move is being made toward a treatment-oriented approach for this offender group. Using a nationally based, administrative data set, this study examines the needs of individuals referred to drug treatment through criminal justice sources. The SAMHSA sponsored Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) contains information on the characteristics and treatment needs of individuals coming into contact with substance abuse treatment agencies. This study examines the prevalence of unemployment psychiatric disorder, homelessness, and other difficulties among individuals referred to substance abuse treatment. Individuals referred to treatment by the criminal justice sources exhibit complex problems in addition to substance abuse. These additional problems must be addressed if a treatment-oriented policy regarding low-level drug offenders is to reach any measure of success.

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Updated 05/20/2006