Polk County successfully garnered my vote for a new jail. This was due to a tour of the older facility where a highly touted treatment program was being implemented and promoted. One offender shared that he was a methamphetamine addict and the only place he would get treatment for his addiction was in jail. Since these inmates were being locked up for a long time anyway, why not have a long-term treatment program within the jail? It seemed to make perfect sense at the time.
Now I look at the research evaluation for a Jail-Based Substance Abuse Treatment Project (J-BT Project) entitled A New Direction: A Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Curriculum for offenders, and wish I could turn back the clock and rethink my vote.
“The Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation conducts the independent evaluation of the J-BT Project.
“Treatment is effective in stopping substance use. The Consortium’s 2010 final report found that of those who were interviewed six months after admission, 86.2% of clients were abstinent.
“Treatment helps those in recovery from returning to jail. The 2010 study found that in the six months after admission, 91.7% of clients had not been arrested.
“Treatment helps people get back to work. The 2010 report found that six months after admission to treatment 60.0% of clients were working full or part time or a student.”
Six months after admission to the program? So part of, if not all of this time is spent behind bars. And isn’t this a very short window for evaluation purposes? Wonder what the numbers would be at one or two years? The report states that 86.2% of the clients interviewed claimed to be abstinent. Wouldn’t admitting to use be self-incrimination? Denial is a strong element of addiction and substance misuse. Would an interview really give reliable results?
The J-BT project states “longer term treatment strategies coupled with intensive supervision increase the likelihood of successful outcomes with offender populations. The J-BT Project is designed to keep offenders in effective treatment for as long as is necessary to lower relapse and recidivism.”
Yes, intensive supervision coupled with long-term effective treatment makes sense. So why isn’t the evaluation being done after a longer period of time to support the long-term effectiveness of this program?
These are the questions that need to be asked and honestly answered. As resources become more and more limited, the programs being financed need to prove long-term effectiveness.
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