Criminal Justice

Drug Treatment Programs of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Exist, but Need More Availability

For over 20 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has provided inmates the opportunity to take part in substance abuse treatment programs that make significant improvements not only to themselves but to their families and communities as well.  As time has gone by the strategy for these treatment programs have evolved, as there have been advances in treating substance abuse.  Evidence shows that when a treatment program is well designed and implemented correctly there is a reduction in relapsing, criminality, recidivism, and inmate misconduct. By using treatment programs the inmate’s stake in societal norms, levels of education, and employment when released, mental and physical health conditions and their relationships with their family and those around them are significantly improved. Not only does this improve the offender’s life after prison, but also public safety is improved due to lower recidivism rates.

The first of the multiple treatment programs is the Drug Abuse Education program that entails a series of classes that educate inmates on substance abuse and the effects it has on your body and mind while identifying the next program that inmates will take part in.

The Nonresidential Drug Abuse Treatment program is a 12 week CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) program that is organized in group sessions. This program addresses criminal lifestyles while also giving inmates the opportunity to increase skills in the areas of rational thinking, communication, and institution to community adjustment. Inmates that are enrolled in this program normally have short sentences, do not meet the Residential Drug Abuse Program, are waiting to be enrolled in RDAP, are in transition back into the community or have a positive urinalysis test.

The Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) is the most intensive program that the Bureau provides. Inmates in this program live in their own separate community from the rest of the population. Inmates take part in daily half-day programming and half-day of work, school, or vocational activities; this program is normally nine months in length. Research shows inmates that take part in RDAP are less likely to recidivate and relapse to drug use by significant amounts compared to those inmates who do not take part in RDAP.

Community Treatment Services (CTS) gives continued care to offenders who have been released and put into Residential Reentry Centers or on Home Confinement. Evidence shows that the period after being released is the most vulnerable time for offenders to relapse back to drug use or criminal activity; continued treatment after release is vital to the success of the offender completing their treatment.

These programs are available for inmates to participate, but not all inmates with drug dependency problems take part in these programs due to multiple factors. A 2012 report was indicated that overcrowding of jails and prisons was a leading factor as to why inmates with drug dependency problems were not enrolled in these programs. The overcrowding of jails leads to an increase in the length of the waiting lists to enter drug treatment programs. In addition to overcrowding, staff shortages and limited resources are part of the issue of low enrollment in drug treatment programs. Undoubtedly, there are certain incarcerated individuals who do not wish to participate in drug treatment programs; however, there a large number of inmates who do wish to participate.

Providing inmates the opportunity to turn their lives around while they are still in prison and after leaving prison is essential to restoring lives and reducing recidivism rates. Having a population of rehabilitated inmates and ex-offenders has a positive effect on public safety and society.


In Depth: Criminal Justice

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