This article details the findings from a process and impact evaluation of the Opportunity to Succeed (OPTS) program designed to reduce substance abuse relapse and criminal recidivism, focusing on the importance of employment and related services for returning prisoners.
The Opportunity to Succeed (OPTS) program was developed by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and implemented in Tampa, FL, and St. Louis and Kansas City, MO, from 1994 through 1997. OPTS provides comprehensive, community-based aftercare services to substance-abusing felony offenders who had received treatment while incarcerated. Under a cooperative agreement between the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice and CASA, this article presents findings from a process and impact evaluation of the multisite OPTS program. The article focuses on OPTS employment services and employment-related outcomes, with particular attention to issues in service delivery. The main body of the article describes important lessons learned from the process evaluation about delivering employment services to those returning to their communities from prisons and jails. The OPTS evaluation included process and impact components and was designed as a randomized study to compare outcomes related to drug use, recidivism, and employment 1 year after release from prison or jail. The study demonstrates the potential of reentry services to assist those returning to their communities from prisons and jails. OPTS clients were significantly more likely to report at a 1-year follow-up more months employed with full-time jobs. Structural modeling found that case manager interaction as part of the OPTS program was associated with increases in full-time employment which in turn were associated with criminal desistance. The article discusses challenges that may be encountered in providing employment services, as well as suggests avenues that should be considered to enhance reentry success. Figures, tables, and references
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