More than 80% of state prisoners across the country report lifetime drug use. Unfortunately, the number of inmates who receive substance abuse treatment is far fewer. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, less than 20 percent of drug involved inmates receive formal treatment during their incarceration. Without treatment, inmates return to their former lives with a high probability of re-offending and continued drug use. In fact, approximately 70% of drug abusing offenders return to prison within three years of their release. 

During tough economic times, the argument for funding effective substance abuse treatment programs is compelling. Research has shown that in-prison treatment, particularly programs based on the therapeutic community model, has a positive effect on reducing recidivism or drug abuse. 

For nearly fifteen years, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. has provided residential substance abuse treatment (RSAT) to inmates throughout the State of Georgia in partnership with the Department of Corrections and the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Spectrum currently serves nearly 1,600 inmates in seven prisons across the state on a daily basis. 

According to a recent study conducted by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, Spectrum’s RSAT programs have demonstrated positive results in lowering the recidivism rate of participants. In FY 2005, 19% of RSAT participants returned to prison within three years of release compared to 28% for non-participants. In other words, Spectrum’s RSAT programming reduces three-year recidivism rates by 9 percent. 

These results are due in large measure to the long-standing, collaborative partnership established between Spectrum and the Georgia Department of Corrections. Both are equally committed to reducing substance abuse and offender recidivism among prison inmates through evidence-based programming. The Department audits Spectrum’s treatment programs each year to ensure the highest level of performance and program fidelity. 

Grounded in principles of effective correctional intervention articulated by Paul Gendreau, Ph.D., Spectrum has a long and successful history in the facilitation and design of treatment programs for drug involved offenders. Based on leading research, Spectrum’s program design combines the best elements of a therapeutic community’s social learning approach with an advanced cognitive-behavioral curriculum. Outcomes of these programs demonstrate the benefit of providing treatment to offenders during their incarceration. 

By helping inmates prepare for release, Spectrum increases their chances of leading productive and drug-free lives in the community while reducing the probability of future re-incarceration. With 9% fewer program graduates returning to prison, the state’s investment in Spectrum’s treatment programs provides taxpayers more than $2 million in net savings each year, not to mention the indescribable benefits to countless lives and society as a whole. 

Founded in 1969, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. is a not-for-profit substance abuse and mental health treatment organization, serving nearly 18,000 individuals each year, through more than 90 institutional and community-based programs located in seven states. 

Cindy Buraczynski, Director of Planning 
(508) 792-5400 x7115

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