About the Substance Abuse Program

The prevalence of substance abuse and dependence among individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system is well known. It is estimated that 53 percent of individuals in state prisons meet the criteria for drug dependence or abuse and more than two-thirds of individuals in jails are dependent on or abuse alcohol or drugs.[1] Despite the number of individuals with substance abuse and dependence who are involved with the criminal justice system, few receive treatment; less than one-quarter of individuals in prisons and jails and less than 10 percent of those under community supervision have access to treatment programs through correctional agencies.[2]

Treatment is an important component of an effective recidivism reduction strategy. For those who receive treatment while incarcerated, research indicates that individuals who complete prison-based treatment and continue with treatment after they return to their communities have the best outcomes in terms of reduced post-incarceration drug use and criminal behavior.[3] For those on community supervision, individuals who receive supervision and community-based treatment show a reduction in recidivism of 18 percent versus 6 percent for those who receive treatment alone.[4]

The Substance Abuse Program promotes cross-system strategies that reduce recidivism and improve public health outcomes through a focus on evidence-based criminal justice and substance abuse treatment policies and practices. The program’s focus on effective risk and needs screening and assessment, increasing access to appropriate treatment, and measuring performance are all integral to improving treatment outcomes, promoting recovery, and achieving recidivism reduction goals.


[1] Mumola, C and Karberg, J. (2006). Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. (October 2006, NCJ 213530).  Karberg J. and James D. (2002). Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (July 2005, NCJ 209588)


[2] Taxman, F.S. et. al. (2007). “Drug treatment services for adult offenders: The state of the state.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Vol. 32, No. 3


[3] Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide. (2005) Published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. http://www.nida.nih.gov/PODAT_CJ/principles/


[4] E. K. Drake, S. Aos, and M. G. Miller. (2009). Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Crime and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State. Victims and Offenders, 4:170–196, 2009