Magazine article Corrections Today

Watch: Montana's In-Prison DUI Trearment Program

Magazine article Corrections Today

Watch: Montana's In-Prison DUI Trearment Program

Article excerpt

Alcohol is the most prevalent substance abused by those in the criminal justice system--exceeding illicit drugs. In fact, alcohol poses a greater threat to our nation's public health than illicit drugs. Alcohol is more widespread and the consequences of its misuse and abuse are more deleterious than illicit substances.

It is thought that if for no other reason than corrections populations are a "captive audience," that the development of in-prison alcohol treatment programs for the felony charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) would be strategic. Because policymakers, despite contrary evidence, have invested much more heavily in building the evidence base on illicit substance treatment, there is a knowledge gap regarding what works with alcohol misuse, abuse and treatment. In an effort to fill this void, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) granted an award to the University of Texas at San Antonio to conduct a two-year process and outcome evaluation of three (Montana, Ohio and Texas) corrections-based DUI/DWI programs. Findings from Montana's Warm Springs Alcohol Treatment and Change (WATCh) program are reported here. (1)

Montana's WATCh Program

Operational since 2002, Montana's WATCh program is a six-month (180 days) residential treatment program for those with a history of multiple DUI convictions. Located in Warm Springs, the program is housed at the Montana State Hospital and is the result of a partnership between the Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC) and Community, Counseling and Correctional Services Inc. (2)

Individuals who have four or more DUI convictions are mandated to serve 13 months in MDOC or a residential treatment program operated or approved by the department. The 13-month sentence cannot be suspended, nor can the offender be paroled. Virtually all individuals who meet these criteria are admitted to the program. Offenders with a sexual crime history, violent crime history or a high-security classification are excluded from the program. Offenders with medical or cognitive impairments that would prevent full participation in treatment are also excluded. Participation is voluntary. (3) At the conclusion of the six-month program, graduates spend the remainder of their sentences (seven months) on probation.

Goals. The overarching goals of the treatment program are to assist offenders in developing the skills necessary to make lasting positive life changes, reduce criminal thinking and behavior, and succeed when released. Specifically, the program goals are:

* Increase offenders' knowledge of chemical dependency and the consequences of drinking and driving;

* Provide offenders with treatment and the services necessary to create pro-social change and reduce anti-social thinking and behavior;

* Promote responsibility and accountability of offenders by providing an experiential pro-social community environment; and

* Decrease the incidence of DUI and other drug-related convictions.

"Family members," as they are called--not offenders, residents or clients--proceed through the program in three phases. Upon completion, family members are released to an aftercare program and remain under probationary supervision until the conclusion of their sentence. The three phases are:

* Phase 1, "Challenge to Change:" The initial phase of the program is devoted to introspection. Goals during this phase are self-disclosure, self-awareness and developing an ability to receive feedback from family members and program staff;

* Phase 2, "Action Phase:" This portion of the program is devoted to identifying the life situations that contributed to the current circumstance and developing behavioral change and improvement goals; and

* Phase 3, "Ownership of Change:" Here, the goal is stabilization and maintenance with an eye toward strengthening the commitment to behavioral change. …

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