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Continuity of Offender Treatment: Institution to the Community

NCJ Number
G Field
Date Published
11 pages
After a review of the literature that has led to the study of continuity of offender drug treatment after release, this paper summarizes recent studies that show the effects of continuity of offender treatment; this is followed by discussions of the theoretical underpinnings of continuity of offender treatment, obstacles to continuity of offender treatment, and successful program models.
Research has shown the effectiveness of both institutional and community substance abuse treatment for offenders; however, too little attention has been given to the process of transition from institution to the community. Recent studies demonstrate the added value of coordination between institution and community supervision and treatment. Institutional programs start a recovery process in an environment whose structure helps the change process to begin, but recovery and the learning of self- management skills begun in the institutional program need reinforcement and some degree of re-learning in the community follow-up program. Some obstacles to this continuity of offender treatment are the fragmentation of the criminal justice system, the lack of coordination between the criminal justice system and substance abuse treatment programs, the loss of postrelease structure for offenders, the loss of incentives and sanctions upon release, lack of community services, lack of treatment provider experience with offenders, and community funding challenges. Strategies for offender treatment continuity from institution to community can be viewed as four types: outreach, whereby institutional staff reach out to community supervision and treatment program providers to ensure continuity; reach-in, in which community supervision staff, treatment program staff, or both begin services before the offender leaves prison; third party, in which an agency separate from corrections or treatment takes primary responsibility for ensuring service continuity; and mixed program models, which use various combinations of the three other models. 22 references