This article reports on the methodology and findings of an evaluation of a California in-prison substance-abuse treatment program ("Amity") that used the therapeutic-community (TC) treatment modality; recidivism for treatment participants was compared with a control group over 5 years.
The Amity TC is located at the R. J. Donovan Correction Facility, a medium-security prison near San Diego. At the time of the evaluation, the program provided intensive treatment to 200 male inmates who resided in a dedicated housing unit during the last 9 to 12 months of their prison term. All participants volunteered for the program. Formal programming occurred 4 hours a day during weekdays, but the presence of specially trained and supervised "lifer mentors," who served as live-in staff, ensured that the TC culture and environment were supported 24 hours a day. Amity used a three-phase treatment model that moved from orientation to increased responsibility to preparation for release and community re-entry. The evaluation involved a sample of 715 prisoners who were randomly assigned to either the Amity program or to a no-treatment group. Five years after release, 90 percent of the original participants were located, and 81 percent were interviewed. Over the 5-year period, the treatment group had significantly lower rates of reincarceration than the control group; however, in multivariate analysis of the time to first reincarceration, the main treatment effect disappeared and other factors (age and postrelease treatment) became significant predictors of delayed time to reincarceration. Those who attended aftercare had lower levels of reincarceration, longer time to reincarceration, and higher levels of employment. The authors advise that selection bias makes it difficult to make strong statements about the effects of aftercare on long-term outcomes, but the findings suggest that across both treatment and control groups, participation in any type of formal treatment after release from prison was predictive of remaining out of prison over a lengthy period. 6 tables, 4 figures, 3 notes, and 49 references