Prison-based Drug Treatment Reduces Recidivism

There are treatment alternatives to incarceration that are less expensive and more effective especially if it includes relapse prevention for criminal offenders which increase recovery rates, reduced severity of relapse, and stops relapse quickly should it occur. Focusing on the symptoms of the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) can quickly allow treatment providers to focus on the special needs of offenders returning to the community.

We need to get tough and be smart by supporting treatment alternatives to incarceration that works.

The following information provides support for this position.

Prison-based Drug Treatment and Aftercare Program Linked to Reduced Recidivism, Successful Reentry into the Community

CHJ Facts on Justice, 2014, Issue 4

A recent study published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation found that individuals participating in a prison-based drug treatment and post-release community aftercare program in Illinois1 were less likely to return to prison in the average 6.9 years after release than similar individuals who did not.

Researchers compared the post-release recidivism outcomes of the first 1,501 Sheridan Correctional Center (SCC) program graduates with those of 2,858 individuals released from other Illinois prisons during the same time period who had similar backgrounds and characteristics.2

Their analyses found recidivism benefits from prison-based drug treatment, and even greater benefits when post-release aftercare services were completed.3

SCC releasees had a 15% lower likelihood of returning to prison than the comparison group; this reduced likelihood jumped to 44% for individuals who also completed aftercare services.

Authors stressed that drug treatment in conjunction with aftercare programs are essential for successful community reentry and contribute to improved public health and safety.

1 Once a medium-security prison, the SCC is located about 70 miles southwest of Chicago. In 2004, it was converted into a dedicated drug treatment facility employing a therapeutic community (TC) model of prison-based drug treatment. (Since the study period, the facility has ceased to be a solely dedicated drug treatment program.) Upon release, all program participants were required to go through substance use aftercare services, usually outpatient treatment, and receive clinical case management services provided by Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), job referral and placement services, and supervision by Illinois Department of Corrections parole agents.

2 Both the SCC group and the comparison group consisted of males released from minimum- or medium-security Illinois prisons between July 2004 and June 2007. Prison records were examined to determine if participants had returned to the state prison system as of June 30, 2012.

3 Individuals who participated in the SCC’s prison-based treatment but not aftercare programming were more likely to return to prison than those in the comparison group, who received no dedicated drug treatment services while in prison. The failure of SCC releasees to complete aftercare violated conditions of parole and therefore resulted in a higher percentage of them being readmitted to prison than comparison group individuals.

Olson, D. E., and Lurigio, A. J. (2014). The long-term effects of prison-based drug treatment and aftercare services on recidivism. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 53(8), 600-619.

©2014 Center for Health and Justice at TASC

Prepared by the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC. CHJ works to build, enhance, and sustain strong and vibrant communities by promoting policies and practices that stop the cycle of drugs and crime. We conduct research and evaluations, and offer policy analysis, trainings, and technical assistance in the fields of health and justice. For more information or a printable version of this issue, visit us online at

TASC offers life-changing opportunities for people whose substance abuse or mental health problems have put them at risk for chronic involvement with the justice system. To learn more or support TASC’s mission, please visit us online at

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