Substance Abuse

The majority of people in prison and jail have a substance use disorder. Despite the promise demonstrated by some treatment programs for people who are incarcerated, just a fraction of the people who need services for substance abuse receive it. Connecting people incarcerated to treatment programs proven to be effective, prioritizing resources for those nearing release, and encouraging community-based aftercare will ensure better outcomes for people released from prisons and jails, and the communities to which they return.

Substance Abuse FAQs

Providing answers on relevant topics concerning Mental Health, Health and Substance Abuse topics.

Recent Posts

Center for Court Innovation

Q&A with Julian Adler of the Red Hook Community Justice Center

As the nation’s first multijurisdictional community court, the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn has served as a neighborhood hub for clinical services, community service, youth programs, and other social supports since its founding in 2000.


DC Courts Are Connecting Individuals with On-Site Treatment

Having an urgent care clinic located only feet away from courtrooms allows judges and court staff to guarantee that people have access to services. For many defendants, this may be the first contact they’ve had with a mental health professional. Moreover, for some, this treatment may well reduce the likelihood that they will be arrested in the future.

U.S. Capitol

Congress Funds Key Criminal Justice Programs

Congress funded three key programs championed by the Council of State Governments Justice Center as part of an appropriations bill that provided $26.7 billion to support U.S. Department of Justice programs.



Bill Allocates $102M in Funding for Key Justice Programs (Updated: May 20)

The House Appropriations Subcommittee approved a $51.4 billion spending bill that would fund three key programs championed by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center: the Second Chance Act (SCA), the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.


Join the Stepping Up Initiative

Last week, the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Foundation, along with a number of diverse partner organizations, launched Stepping Up, a national initiative to safely reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. We are asking you to join us.



Risk Need Responsivity 101: A Primer for SCA and JMHCP Grant Recipients

This webinar provides foundational knowledge on RNR as well as guidance on understanding and implementing risk assessment tools as a way to direct resources and support recidivism-reduction strategies for criminal justice and social service agencies, practitioners, and policymakers.


Improving Outcomes for Court-Involved Youth with Co-Occurring Disorders

This webinar provides an overview of three briefs that were recently published by National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders among youth.


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Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice

This publication from the Brennan Center for Justice is a collection of essays on mass incarceration from prominent figures and experts from across the political spectrum. A bipartisan collaboration, the essays reflect a political shift from the punitive policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Journal of Juvenile Justice

This issue of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Journal of Juvenile Justice features articles on behavioral health therapy for young women in the juvenile justice system; juvenile justice in rural areas; the impact of child protective services on reoffending; reducing “social distance” between minority youth and law enforcement; recommendations on how to help youth get out of gangs; and addressing sex education with youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system.


Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance Fact Sheet Series

These fact sheets from the Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance provide a comprehensive overview of the juvenile justice system in Ohio, with information separated into two broad categories: 1) points of youth contact with the juvenile justice system, and 2) special populations and issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, girls, minority youth, youth with behavioral health needs, and LGBTI youth.

Recent headlines

Jails Are No Substitute for a Mental Health System

Using our criminal justice system as a substitute for a fully functioning mental health system doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense for law enforcement officers, who often put their lives at risk when they are called upon to intervene in a mental health crisis. It doesn’t make sense for courts, which are inundated with cases involving people with mental illness. It doesn’t make sense for people who have mental health conditions, who often would benefit more from treatment and intensive supervision.

One Town is Going to Try Not Arresting Heroin Users

Police Chief Lenny Campanello Gloucester, Massachusetts, may change how we handle drug addiction. Fed up with the opiate epidemic spreading through Gloucester, he posted a message on May 4 on department’s Facebook page, vowing the department will not charge drug users, but will connect them to treatment instead.

Skyrocketing Prison Costs Have States Targeting Recidivism, Sentencing Practices

It is not often that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center find common cause with conservative Republicans in Alabama. But on Tuesday, both sides will celebrate when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signs legislation that will substantially cut the number of prisoners in state custody.

New Efforts Aim To Keep The Mentally Ill Out Of Jail

Earlier this month, a coalition including the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the American Psychiatric Foundation and the National Association of Counties kicked off a national campaign to encourage local jurisdictions to collect data on the jailed mentally ill and adopt strategies to avoid incarceration.

Sacramento County: Break Away Bike Program

When it comes to innovative programs, the creative wheels are definitely turning in the Sacramento County Probation Department. As part of the county’s Adult Drug Court program, clients with transportation issues can earn donated bicycles. This incentive has improved attendance while helping clients get back on their feet.
Having transportation – even of the two-wheeled variety – allows clients to regularly attend Drug Court programs and other mandatory courses, get to their jobs on time and just participate in other aspects of everyday life we often take for granted.

Alabama Legislature Reforms Prisons in Effort to Ease Overcrowding, Avoid Federal Takeover

The Alabama Legislature passed sweeping prison reform with only 5 dissenting votes last week. The bill, once it is signed by Governor Bentley, is expected to shrink the prison system’s population by 4,500 inmates over the next 5 years. It also reduces the penalties for some nonviolent and drug-related crimes and strengthens the state’s parole program in an effort to reduce recidivism.

Bill Overhauls Criminal Justice System

The bill, HB 348, a response to Gov. Gary Herbert’s 2014 State of the State address in which he called for a comprehensive criminal justice reform, was the result of a collaborative effort by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) and Pew Charitable Trusts. The bill’s goal is to reduce the prison population, specifically those who are incarcerated for drug offenses. At the same time, it emphasizes local responsibility and will require increased efforts by counties to provide services for people who become entangled in the criminal justice system.

Senators See Bipartisan Momentum for Criminal Justice Overhaul

Senators’ plans for an overhaul of the criminal justice system are piling up in the Judiciary Committee — and the latest spate of officer-involved tragedies could give them a boost. While many bills touching all aspects of criminal justice sit idly by, recent movement in the committee shows change could be coming. One bill seeks to review the entire criminal justice system, while another approved last month addresses recidivism; and a subcommittee is set to review body cameras for police officers.

New Report Calls for Big Behavioral Health Changes in South Carolina

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine & Public Health released a report last week recommending that South Carolina transform the way mental health and substance abuse services are provided in this state. Patients with behavioral health problems — which includes adults and children with mental health disorders, substance abuse addictions, or both — often end up in an emergency room, jail, prison or a homeless shelter. None of these settings are well equipped to meet their ongoing needs, the report shows, but patients often have nowhere else to turn because South Carolina spends significantly less than the national average on public mental health resources.