A large number of prisoners in the United States’ criminal justice system are victims of drugs and substance abuse. The problem of drug addiction and abuse is one of the factors that have contributed to these inmates becoming repeat offenders (Hiller, Knight, & Simpson, 1999). Several scholars and professionals have proposed that the prisoners should be given a chance to participate in any kind of substance abuse treatment program to enable them to cease engaging in similar criminal offences before and after their release from jail (Hiller, Knight, Leukefeld, & Simpson, 2002). I strongly believe that prison-based substance abuse and residential aftercare programs are highly effective in reducing recidivism.
This research is intended to prove the effectiveness of prison-based substance abuse and residential aftercare programs in reducing cases of recidivism. The questions for this research include:
- Do the prison based substance abuse treatment programs help in reducing drug abuse related criminal activities?
- Do residential aftercare programs help in preventing released criminals from re-engaging in similar crimes after they are set free?
- Are the prison-based and the residential aftercare programs effective in reducing recidivism?
It is hypothesized that the prison-based treatment programs help to reduce drug abuse related crimes. The residential aftercare programs also greatly assist in preventing released criminals from re-engaging in criminal activities after their release. The research is based on the proposition that the two programs are effective in reducing recidivism. This is evident from the sharp reduction in the number of repeat offenders that has been witnessed in the last few years since the introduction of the two programs.
The Structure of the Paper
This paper will use mostly a literature review to answer the above research questions. The paper will then give an examination of the legal and ethical implications of the research in relation to human protection. Suggestions as to how the research will be beneficial to public safety professionals and agencies will also be outlined. Lastly, the paper will give a conclusion regarding the issue and recommendations regarding how the results should be implemented.
Findings and Discussion: A Literature Review
Prison Based Substance Abuse Treatment Programs and Relapse Prevention
This study found out that prison based substance abuse treatment programs help to reduce crimes that are related to drug abuse. The United States’ criminal justice system estimates that for a little amount of money it spends on such treatment programs, there is a lot of it that is saved as a result of the significant reduction in drug related crimes (Hiller, Knight, & Simpson, 1999). This is a clear indication that the prison treatment programs are not only beneficial to the criminals but also to the criminal justice system and the public (Wormer & Persson, 2010).
Prison authorities have been encouraging criminals with drug abuse problems to participate in the treatment programs voluntarily. In some cases, the criminal justice system legally forces some unwilling prisoners with drug abuse problems to take part in the treatment programs (Wormer & Persson, 2010). Whether forced or voluntary, the inmates who participate in the treatment programs end up receiving great assistance from such programs. Most of the participants eventually develop interests in the treatment programs and accept to continue with them; in the end, this enables them to withdraw completely from abusing the drugs (Hiller, Knight, Leukefeld, & Simpson, 2002).
The criminals with drug abuse related problems who are released from prisons without undergoing proper treatment and counseling continue abusing drugs as soon as they are set free (American Psychological Association, 2004). These ex-prisoners are more likely to be re-arrested and taken back to jail for committing the same or different crimes. They are likely to be charged with drug related offences such as: stealing money to purchase drugs, being in possession of drugs, and/or other offences that are not directly linked to drug abuse; for example, they can easily engage in crime as a result of the intoxication brought about by the drugs they take (Langan & Levin, 2002).
Untreated drug abusing inmates are not only more likely to abuse drugs again and re-engage in similar crimes but also more prone to causing jeopardy in the health and public sector with their subsequent arrests and incarcerations. The subsequent arrests and incarcerations also pile pressure on the time and resources of the criminal justice system, which could be used for other purposes (Langan & Levin, 2002). For that reason, the criminal justice system should continue subjecting the prisoners to the drug abuse treatment agencies to save its resources (American Psychological Association, 2004).
Residential Aftercare Programs and Criminal Offences
There is a positive correlation between drug abuse and the engagement of the drug addicts in criminal offences. This is a fact that is recognized internationally and which requires interventions such as residential aftercare programs to prevent prisoners who are released from prison from engaging in similar offences again. In view of that, the United States’ criminal justice system has set up health and social services to cater for the prisoners when they are released from jails (Belenko, Foltz, Lang, & Sung, 2004).
The residential aftercare programs assist the ex-prisoners to desist from abusing drugs through various means. For instance, the interventions help ex-prisoners to gain meaningful and productive employment, re-unite successfully with their families, and deal with the challenges that they may encounter in getting accepted by their communities. The residential aftercare programs are very critical interventions that assist the ex-prisoners to successfully transit from the prison years to the out-of-prison life (Belenko, Foltz, Lang, & Sung, 2004).
The programs work toward ensuring that most of the released prisoners are kept off the drugs and do not engage in similar crimes after their release. The programs focus on changing the behavior of the ex-prisoners. For instance, the programs use community restraints to lay strict surveillance and exercise control over the released prisoners during their integration back into the society. Some of the restraints used to realize this include: electronic monitoring, employment verification, and urine testing for verification of re-involvement in substance use (Hiller, Knight, Leukefeld, & Simpson, 2002).
Although the residential aftercare programs have been effective in ensuring that the ex-prisoners with substance abuse problems do not use the drugs again once they are released, there are a few limitations that hinder this initiative from being successful. Some of these factors include: the unwillingness of some of the released prisoners to participate in the programs, mental health issues, the lack of such programs in some areas, especially the rural regions, and the lack of the necessary infrastructure in some areas (Linhorst, 2001).
Effectiveness of Prison and Aftercare Programs in Reducing Recidivism
Various research studies have proven that prison-based substance treatment and residential aftercare programs are very effective in reducing recidivism among criminals in the United States. The two programs have been able to reduce the overall recidivism rate in the country since they are designed to help the prisoners overcome the problem of drug abuse after they are released (Burdon, Dang, Prendergast, Messina, & Farabee, 2007).
The prison-based substance abuse treatment programs, for instance, assist a large number of drug abusing offenders to positively adjust their behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes (Burdon et al., 2007). These are several factors that directly determine how these offenders successfully quit abusing drugs to avoid cases of relapse. Once the individuals are completely withdrawn from abusing drugs, their chances of engaging in drug abuse related crimes again are reduced by more than half; consequently, the prison-based treatment programs can be said to reduce recidivism (Cate, Jett, Siggins, Powers, & Gauger, 2009).
The residential aftercare programs also assist greatly in reducing recidivism. The programs mainly concentrate on assisting the ex-prisoners to desist from activities that may cause them to abuse drugs and as a result, engage in drug abuse related crimes. The programs ensure that the ex-prisoners are assisted to secure a legal productive employment, affordable residential apartments, and are taught on how to adapt to out-of-prison life. The ex-prisoners are also occasionally subjected to tests for substance abuse to ensure that they stay away from the drugs (Hiller, Knight, Leukefeld, & Simpson, 2002).
Ethical Implications of Prison Based and Residential Aftercare Programs
Although the prison-based substance abuse treatment and residential aftercare programs have been appraised for their effectiveness in reducing recidivism in the country, the programs have a few ethical issues especially regarding the workers of such programs and the inmates (Harrison, 2001). For instance, the people who work in the field of substance abuse treatment are faced with ethical dilemmas that relate to their personal values, judgments and beliefs. This is aggravated by the misconceptions and feelings that various communities show toward drug addicts. Some communities feel that the people who work with these drug addicts are likely to be drug users as well, an element that greatly affects the efficiency of the treatment programs (Wormer & Persson, 2010).
The workers in the drug abuse treatment programs also face a lot of difficulties in balancing the decisions they feel are right and their professional standards. To remain efficient in these programs, these workers have to overcome their personal beliefs and attitudes toward drug abuse; they are also forced to adhere to the professional code of ethics regardless of their beliefs. There are cases in which the workers have been castigated for failing to observe the code of ethics despite being forced to do so by the behaviors of the prisoners (Harrison, 2001).
The cases in which prisoners are forced to participate in the prison-based treatment and residential aftercare programs can also be viewed as unethical; this is because they are violations of the prisoners’ fundamental right of choice. Even though the prisoners later come to benefit from the programs, they should be allowed to participate in the programs voluntarily. In such cases, the professionals who are responsible for such programs should design ways to lure the prisoners to participate freely and not forcing them to do so (Wormer & Persson, 2010).
How the Findings May Benefit the Public Safety Professionals
The findings of this research are not only beneficial to the criminal justice system and the prisoners with drug abuse related issues but also to the public safety professionals. These findings, if adopted by the public safety professionals, can also assist them to enhance the operations of the agencies that are within the criminal justice system (Wheeler & Patterson, 2008). The findings show that the prison-based treatment programs work best when the prisoners are lured to participate voluntarily. The professionals should work together with the providers of such programs to ensure that the prisoners participate fully. This will definitely assist the professionals enhance their work as there will be fewer cases of drug abuse related crimes to handle (Harrison, 2001).
The findings also show that residential aftercare programs can work best only if the released prisoners are provided with the basic amenities that they require to adapt to the life outside prison. The professionals should ensure that the government is compelled to avail such amenities, which may include: affordable residential apartments, jobs, and a proper way of re-uniting the prisoners with their communities; these amenities are significant strides in helping the drug addicts to quit drug abuse (Harrison, 2001). When the ex-prisoners are completely treated and able to quit drugs, cases of relapse and drug abuse related crimes will generally go down in the country. This is beneficial to the professionals as they are left with sufficient time and resources to deal with other safety issues other than cases of drug abuse (Wheeler & Patterson, 2008).
It is evident, from the findings of this research that the prison-based substance abuse treatment and residential aftercare programs are effective in reducing recidivism in the United States. Since the introduction of the programs in the last few decades, there has been a sharp decrease in first and repeat offenders especially in cases relating to drug abuse. The programs assist the ex-prisoners who are released from jail to cope with out-of-prison life and also give them the drive they need to stop abusing drugs.
However, there are several things that can make these programs more effective than they are at the present. This research recommends the following:
- The government should avail the necessary resources such as affordable apartments to enable the aftercare providers to execute the residential aftercare programs more effectively.
- The criminal justice system and the professionals responsible for the prison-based and aftercare programs should ensure that they are tailored in such a way that they suit the needs of all the prisoners to encourage them to participate in them voluntarily.
- The criminal justice system should desist from forcing unwilling prisoners to take part in the programs against; this will ensure that the fundamental rights of the prisoners are not violated in any way.
- The relevant officials, the state, the federal and local governments, and the rehabilitation organizations should foster a good working relationship among them to promote these programs.
Since most data in this research was collected by means of a literature review, the findings may not be all-inclusive. Consequently, the research recommends that other studies that will be conducted about the same topic should apply both qualitative and quantitative methods in equal proportions to strengthen the study.
American Psychological Association. (2004). Inmate drug abuse treatment slows prison’s revolving door. Web.
Belenko, S., Foltz, C. Lang, M. A., & Sung, H. (2004). Recidivism among high-risk drug felons: A longitudinal analysis following residential treatment. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 40(1/2), 105-132.
Burdon, M. W., Dang, J., Prendergast, L. M., Messina, P. N., & Farabee, D. (2007). Differential effectiveness of residential versus outpatient aftercare for parolees from prison-based therapeutic community treatment programs. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2(16). Web.
Cate, L. M. M. M., Jett, P. K., Siggins, E. C., Powers, F. T., & Gauger, L. S. (2009). Annual report: California department of corrections and rehabilitation adult programs division of addiction and recovery services. Web.
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