Researchers Find Substance Abuse Treatment During and After Prison Term Reduces Reincarceration Rates, is Cost Effective

Costs and benefits of prison-based treatment plus aftercare for drug-abusing offenders

From December 2000 through November 2004, Kathryn E. McCollister, PhD, and researchers from the University of Miami compared the costs of in-prison and aftercare substance abuse treatment services for criminal offenders with the savings resulting from fewer days of reincarceration to determine whether such programs are cost effective.

McCollister also worked with colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles and National Development and Research Institutes.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see the Program Results Report).

Key Findings:

Researchers reported the following findings in a chapter of the book Treatment of Drug Offenders: Policies and Issues and in articles published in Law & Policy, Justice Quarterly and Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

  • Substance abuse treatment services delivered in criminal justice settings are less expensive than treatment provided in standard, community-based residential settings.
  • Participation by criminal offenders in programs that combine in-prison and aftercare substance abuse treatment reduced days of reincarceration and resulted, in most cases, in cost savings.
  • Aftercare programs are critical to the success of treatment programs for offenders.