The Effectiveness of Early Parole to Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities on 24-Month Criminal Recidivism

Article excerpt

This naturalistic study involved 569 offenders who had a history of substance abuse or dependence prior to incarceration, and were subsequently approved for early parole to a community-based substance abuse treatment facility (SATF). Overall 495 offenders were paroled directly to a SATF while 74 were paroled to the community without transfer to a SATE due to prison overcrowding. Criminal history records for all 569 offenders were obtained approximately 24 months following parole. Any new conviction as a result of a new crime committed during the 24-month window following parole to the community was considered a negative outcome. Results found that 22% of offenders paroled to a substance abuse treatment facility (SATE) were convicted of a new crime compared to 34% of offenders paroled directly to the community (chi-square = 4.57, of 1, p=.03). A stepwise logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine how different factors contributed to a new conviction. Overall more prior convictions (p<.001) and lower age (p=.001) were strong significant predictors and cocaine dependence (p=.06) and parole without treatment (p=.08) were predictive of a new conviction. Additionally, offenders who completed treatment were significantly less likely to be convicted of a new crime (11.8% vs. 29%) than those who dropped out of treatment (chi-square = 11.50, df = 1, p<.01). These data suggest that early parole to a SATF could be considered as a viable means to reduce prison sentences for addicted offenders.


The association between criminal activities and substance abuse is well known. Data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program (ADAM) found that approximately 60% of all arrestees test positive for illicit drug use, not including alcohol (ADAM, 2000). The continued positive and strong association between substance abuse and crime has impacted the criminal justice system toward developing new sentencing alternatives in an effort to reduce prison overcrowding and to address the rehabilitative needs of the chemically dependent offender.

Because of prison overcrowding, many states have aggressively developed early release initiatives. An estimated 84% of state prisoners expected to be released to the community were involved in alcohol and drugs at the time of their offense (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001).

Over the past three decades efforts have been made to treat substance abuse and rehabilitate offenders across the varying stages of the criminal justice system (probation, incarceration, parole). Substance abuse treatment has been shown to reduce both substance use and criminal behavior among offender populations throughout different stages in the criminal justice process. Outcome studies of prisonbased therapeutic communities (TCs) have demonstrated that inmates who complete drug treatment during incarceration have a 20% to 50% reduced rate of new convictions compared to non-treated offenders (Knight & Simpson, 1999; Wexler, 1994; Wexler & Gerald, 1999). Similarly, several studies have found that offenders who are paroled to substance abuse treatment services are more likely to have improved psychosocial functioning and lower rates of criminal recidivism (Taxman & Soule, 1999). Finally, Inciardi and Martin (1997) found that offenders who receive substance abuse treatment both during incarceration and following parole to the community appear to have better outcomes than offenders who receive only treatment during incarceration. In general, these studies have demonstrated that providing substance abuse treatment during incarceration and/or parole significantly reduces both substance use and criminal recidivism.

Clearly, the development of drug courts, TASC programs (treatment accountability for safer communities), and other innovative sentencing practices have diverted many alcohol/drug dependent offenders directly to substance abuse treatment programs in lieu of incarceration. …