NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lower Recidivism, Higher Employment at Half the Cost of Prison

March 14, 2003

Drug-addicted, nonviolent felony offenders who completed the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) Program were significantly less likely to re-offend and had higher employment rates than comparable offenders who were sent to prison, according to a study 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 study participants had five prior drug arrests and an average of four years behind bars. Among the results of the five-year CASA evaluation:

  • Those 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 is successful because 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), according to CASA.

Retention rates are important because the longer an individual stays in treatment, the greater their chance of maintaining sobriety, according to the report.

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.

Source: "Crossing the Bridge: An Evaluation of the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) Program," March 2003, Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.


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