Extra Help Takes Parolees Only So Far

Demonstration of an aftercare program for substance abusing ex-offenders

Investigators at New York University and Columbia University planned, implemented, and evaluated a demonstration program designed to reduce substance-abuse relapse and criminal recidivism among felony offenders released from prison by providing them with an array of supportive services.

The program, called Opportunity to Succeed (OPTS) offered participants:

  • Substance-abuse treatment
  • Employment services
  • Housing assistance
  • Family-strengthening services
  • Health-and-mental-health services.

Key Results

  • The project initially provided administrative oversight, monitoring, and technical support to five sites—Tampa, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; New York, N.Y.; and Oakland, Calif.

  • During the program's first year, the New York and Oakland sites were unable to reach targeted enrollments and were dropped as research sites.

  • The Oakland site was dropped from the project entirely at the end of the second year because of problems with program administration. Clients were transferred to another program.

  • Tampa, St. Louis, and Kansas City secured local matching funds to continue program operations for a fourth year.

  • In 1994, CASA contracted with the Urban Institute to conduct an evaluation of OPTS.

Evaluation Findings

  • The evaluation found:

    • Reductions in alcohol and marijuana use.
    • Increases in full-time employment.
    • Stronger family relations among participants.
  • However, it also found that:

    • OPTS did not have discernible effects on hard drug use or criminal behaviors.
    • A cost-benefit analysis did not definitively show OPTS to be cost-effective.