Three Steps Keep Drug Offenders Cleaner And Out Of Prison

June 25, 1997

JUNE 30, 1997--In a study of 448 drug-involved inmates released from Delaware's Gander Hill prison, a model three-step treatment program helped 77 percent avoid arrest for at least 18 months, while 47 percent remained drug free, University of Delaware researchers report in today's Journal of Drug Issues.

By comparison, prison-based drug treatment only--with no follow-up care in a community setting--kept 22 percent of inmates straight, while 43 percent were not arrested for a year and a half, says James A. Inciardi, professor of criminal justice and director of UD's Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies.

Among a third group of subjects who received no treatment at all, Inciardi adds, the statistics were predictably dismal. Given no care, only 16 percent of the offenders remained drug free. Forty-six percent stayed out of jail for 18 months, he says. Those who received no treatment were far more likely to drink too much alcohol, he notes.

Inciardi's research team conducted lengthy interviews to document each subject's criminal and drug-abuse history, sexual activity, psychosocial and mental health status and sociodemographic background. The researchers also analyzed blood and urine samples to assess drug and alcohol use among the inmates. Drugs and crime often go hand-in-hand, the journal article notes. In fact, the researchers conclude, "street drugs seem to lock users into patterns of criminality that are more acute, dynamic, unremitting, and enduring than those of other offenders."

The study compared graduates of KEY, a prison-based treatment program at Gander Hill prison, with those who also participated in the community-based CREST program for work-release candidates. These results were then compared with data collected before the treatment programs were established. Drug-involved offenders seem to stay straight longer when they complete a three-step program--moving from the general prison population to a cloistered treatment group inside the facility and finally into a community-based setting.

The UD-managed CREST program, directed by Inciardi, was launched in 1990, thanks to a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. To date, more than 550 people have received treatment through the CREST program.

University of Delaware

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