CASA EVALUATION FINDS LOWER RECIDIVISM, HIGHER EMPLOYMENT RATES AT HALF THE COST OF INCARCERATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Drug-addicted, non-violent felony offenders with five prior drug arrests and an average of four years behind bars achieved significantly lower recidivism rates and higher employment rates through a drug treatment program than comparable offenders who were sent to prison, according to findings published in the White Paper, Crossing the Bridge: An Evaluation of the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) Program, released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. These results were achieved at about half the cost of incarceration, the CASA evaluation found. The five-year evaluation was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“This DTAP program demonstrates that we don't have to throw away the key for repeat drug addicted offenders, even those who sell drugs to support their habit. Prosecutors can help repeat felony offenders become responsible citizens if they combine treatment and vocational training with the certainty of punishment for noncompliance,” says Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. “In this time of burgeoning prison populations and shrinking federal and state budgets, every prosecutor in the nation can follow the lead of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and try this program. DTAP offers prosecutors the same kind of effective alternative to incarceration that drug courts offer judges.”
The DTAP program provides 15 to 24 months of residential drug treatment, vocational training, and social and mental health services to drug-addicted, nonviolent repeat offenders who face mandatory punishment under New York State's second felony offender law. Participants are abusers of heroin, crack and powder cocaine among other substances. They plead guilty to a felony, thereby ensuring a mandatory prison sentence if they abscond from the program. Sentencing is deferred upon program participation; if participants complete the program, their guilty plea is withdrawn and the charges dismissed.
The five-year CASA evaluation found that participants who completed the program and graduated were 33 percent less likely to be rearrested, 45 percent less likely to be reconvicted, and 87 percent less likely to return to prison, than the comparable prison group.
DTAP graduates were three and one-half times more likely to be employed after graduation than before their arrest. Before their arrest, 26 percent were working either part-time or full-time. Following successful completion of the program, 92 percent had found employment.
DTAP participants remain in treatment six times longer than individuals in other long-term residential treatment (a median of 17.8 months compared to three months). Retention rates are important because the longer an individual stays in treatment, the greater their chance of maintaining sobriety. “This program in which failure is a one-way ticket to prison shows the effectiveness of coerced treatment,” says Califano.
These results are achieved at about half the cost of incarceration. The average cost for each DTAP participant of residential drug treatment, vocational training and support services was $32,975 compared to an average cost of $64,338 for the time spent in prison for DTAP participants who dropped out.1
DTAP was developed in 1990 by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes in response to the number of drug-addicted offenders in Kings County. The 1998 CASA report Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population revealed that 80 percent of the men and women behind bars in the U.S. were seriously involved with drugs and alcohol. That year, states spent nearly $30 billion on the adult corrections system, $24.1 billion of which was spent on substance-involved offenders making substance abuse the number one contributor to crime in America.
“With the advent of this innovative and effective program, Charles J. Hynes sets an example for prosecutors nationwide,” says Califano. “Fifteen prosecutors in New York State have already replicated DTAP. I encourage every prosecutor in the country to try it to reduce crime, the cost of incarceration and budget deficits.”
NOTE 1 These estimates are based on 1996 dollars (at the time of analysis, the most recent year for which sufficient data were available) adjusted for inflation based on the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope. With a staff of more than 70 professionals, CASA has demonstration projects in 60 sites in 32 cities and 21 states focused on children, families and schools, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, monitoring 15,000 individuals and more than 200 programs and five drug courts in 26 states.