Substance Abuse Treatment

In Fiscal Year 1989, the Bureau of Prisons designed a comprehensive substance abuse treatment strategy in an effort to change inmates’ criminal and drug-using behaviors. This strategy begins with drug abuse education and ends with a strong community transition component.

Inmates are required to participate in a drug abuse education course if (1) there is evidence in their presentence investigation report that alcohol or drugs contributed to the commission of their instant offense; (2) they violated supervised release, parole, conditions of a halfway house placement, or conditions of home confinement based on alcohol or drug use; or (3) the sentencing judge recommended that they participate in a drug treatment program during incarceration. In the drug abuse education course, inmates receive information about alcohol and drugs and the physical, social, and psychological impact of abusing these substances. Inmates who are identified as having a further need for treatment are encouraged to participate in non-residential or residential drug abuse treatment.

Non-residential drug abuse treatment and counseling are available at every Bureau institution. Treatment includes individual and group therapy, group counseling, and the use of interactive cognitive restructuring treatment modules that provide skills-building activities and prepare inmates for their transition to the community.

In addition, more than 50 Bureau institutions have residential drug abuse treatment programs (RDAP). Inmates who participate in the residential program are housed together in a separate unit of the prison that is reserved for drug treatment. The residential program provides intensive half-day programming, 5 days a week. The remainder of the day is spent in education, work skills training, and/or other inmate programming. Upon RDAP completion, aftercare treatment services are provided to the inmate while he/she is in the general population, and also later at the residential reentry center. This maximizes the carry-over of skills, ensuring an effective transition from the institution program to the community.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act provided a powerful incentive for inmates who volunteer to participate in the residential drug abuse program. Non-violent inmates who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder may be eligible for up to a year off his/her sentence, at the discretion of the Director of the BOP. Policy regarding an inmate’s potential for early release may be found in the Policy area of the BOP website. (Also see 5221.01, Early release procedures under 18 USC 3621(e)).

The Bureau and National Institute on Drug Abuse combined funding and expertise to conduct a rigorous analysis of the Bureau’s residential drug treatment program. Research findings demonstrated that RDAP participants are significantly less likely to recidivate and less likely to relapse than non-participants. The studies also suggest that the Bureau’s RDAPs make a significant difference in the lives of inmates following their release from custody and return to the community.