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Barriers to Implementing Effective Correctional Drug Treatment Programs

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 79 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1999 Pages: 150-162
D Farabee; M Prendergast; J Cartier; H Wexler; K Knight; M D Anglin
Date Published
13 pages
This article summarizes both the research literature and the experiences of the authors regarding six common barriers to developing effective correctional treatment programs and offers potential solutions for each.
The barriers discussed relate to client identification, assessment, and referral; recruitment and training of treatment staff; redeployment of correctional staff; overreliance on institutional versus therapeutic sanctions; aftercare; and coercion. Regarding client identification, assessment, and referral, treatment staff must be involved in the selection of new admissions to ensure the appropriateness of the program population. Providers should recruit participants from the general inmate population to avoid populating their programs with inappropriate inmates due to the pressure to fill beds. Regarding the recruitment and training of treatment staff, the most obvious way to overcome the barriers associated with recruiting staff in remote areas is to offer sufficient wages to induce counselors to move and stay. A strategy for reducing the stress and workload of prison-based treatment staff is to recruit and train "lifers" as inmate counselors and mentors. Also, cross-training of correctional and treatment staff should be a core component of staff orientation. Evaluations of community-based offender treatment programs suggest that staff turnover undermines program stability and effectiveness. One approach to this problem is to institutionalize stability, rather than allowing policies to be contingent on the management style of individual yard captains. Enhanced awareness and cooperation between treatment and security staff are the most effective means for addressing overreliance on institutional sanctions instead of using therapeutic sanctions. To enhance aftercare participation, an emphasis on postrelease treatment should begin at least 3 months prior to an inmate's parole release date. Efforts to increase treatment engagement can be further enhanced by offering external motivators for aftercare participation. Because coercion alone is rarely sufficient motivation for progress in treatment, programs should incorporate incentives that are meaningful inducements for the target population. 39 references