A Few Sobering Reminders about Correctional Treatment

By Enos, Gary A. | Addiction Professional, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview
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A Few Sobering Reminders about Correctional Treatment


Enos, Gary A., Addiction Professional


A Few Sobering Reminders About Correctional Treatment Substance Abuse Treatment with Correctional Clients: Practical Implications for Institutional and Community Settings Barbara Sims, PhD (ed.); The Haworth Press, Binghamton, N.Y., (800) 429-6784; 2005; ISBN: 0-7890-2127-7; softcover; 257 pages

For those addiction professionals who might have come to believe that the treatment field has ideal tools for reaching the addicted offender, Substance Abuse Treatment with Correctional Clients frequently serves as something of a reality check. While by no means does it set out to present a pessimistic view of treatment in the justice system, the book offers plenty of reminders of the many obstacles to working successfully in these settings.

The analysis begins with a basic overview of the prevalence of substance-using behavior among offenders, but quickly moves to a discussion of this population's prospects for treatment success once in the justice system's control. A chapter on predictors of success and failure in correctional programs emphasizes how factors such as past history of mental health problems, negative self-concept, and inadequate postrelease planning can impede good outcomes for the correctional client.

The book's chapters on institutional treatment, focusing on use of the therapeutic community (TC) model, offer perhaps the best evidence that the reality doesn't always match the hype in the national discussion of treatment in the justice system. One study cited in this section of the book looks at reasons why nearly one-third of the first 800 admissions in the Arkansas Department of Correction's TC program had to be removed from treatment-a percentage well in excess of treatment dropout rates in federal prison treatment programs. The study found that factors such as living alone prior to incarceration were strongly linked to having problems adjusting to the group dynamic that is so critical to the TC's operation.

A separate study that involved site visits to the Arkansas program in 1999 and 2001 uncovered several problems through observations and interviews with inmates.

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