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Washington's Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: Recidivism & Cost Analysis

NCJ Number
Elizabeth K. Drake; Danielle Fumia; Lijian He
Date Published
December 2014
26 pages

This cost analysis report is divided into four sections, plus a technical appendix, that contains background information on residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) and prison-based DOSA sentences; a summary of key findings from the evaluation of the residential DOSA policy; an outline of the authors’ methodological approach and findings from the outcome evaluation; and an estimate of the costs and benefits of residential DOSA.


This document reports on the outcomes of a cost-benefit analysis of the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) law in Washington State, which allows certain offenders to receive reduced prison sentences in exchange for completing chemical dependency treatment. The authors report the following findings: residential DOSA is more expensive, by $564, compared with similar sentences to prison with chemical dependency treatment; recidivism rates are lower for offenders sentenced to residential DOSA; and the comparison group spends 5.3 months in confinement, whereas offenders sentenced to residential DOSA do not. The authors also report that they were unable to empirically estimate the how much a residential treatment facility itself incapacitates offenders, and therefore they are unable to determine the degree to which the benefits from the favorable recidivism reduction of residential DOSA would be offset by the increased costs of non-confinement.