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Chemical Dependency Treatment for Offenders: A Review of the Evidence and Benefit-Cost Findings

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Drake
Date Published
56 pages

This report discusses a meta-analysis that analyzed research studies about whether, on average, chemical dependency treatment programs in the adult and juvenile justice systems reduce crime and substance abuse; the report's focus is on programs funded by Washington taxpayers.


This document presents a review of research studies that examined the outcomes of chemical dependency treatment programs in the adult and juvenile justice systems, to determine whether they reduced crime and substance abuse. The authors focused on the type of chemical dependency programs funded by Washington state taxpayers, analyzing 55 unique studies that had sufficient research rigor to include in their review. The document notes that programs for adult offenders have been evaluated more frequently than those for juveniles, and as a result, 45 of the evaluated treatment programs were adult programs and 10 were for juveniles. Findings indicated that a variety of chemical dependency treatments were effective at reducing crime, and resulted in a 4-9 percent reduction rate, and some programs also had benefits that substantially exceeded costs. The authors found that community case management for adult substance abuse had a larger effect when coupled with “swift and certain” punishment. The report is divided into three sections: section 1 outlines the research approach; section 2 discusses findings; and the final section includes appendices with further details on findings and methods.