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Audit of Iowa Prison System’s Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Released

Audit of Iowa Prison System's Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Released

by Matt Clarke

On May 25, 2007, the Iowa Department of Management released a performance audit of substance abuse treatment in the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC). The audit found a number of problems, chief among them that close to 60% of prisoners with substance abuse treatment needs were being released without any treatment. The fact that "lack of treatment resources" was one of the most pressing issues identified by the audited DOC employees may explain the overall lack of treatment.

Among those prisoners successfully completing substance abuse programs recidivism for a new conviction was reduced 0.3% statewide and the overall recidivism rate was 0.5% higher compared with prisoners who had substance abuse program needs, but received no treatment. This would bring the entire concept of prison-based substance abuse treatment into question were it not for differences in the programs offered at the various prisons and huge differences in their resulting recidivism reductions. Newton Correctional Facility, the most successful prison, had a 7.9% reduction in new conviction recidivism and a 12.4% reduction in overall recidivism after one year.

Varying degrees of reduction in new conviction recidivism rates occurred at 3 of the 18 prisons and 8 of the 18 showed reductions in overall recidivism rates. However, the report concluded that overall the programs only slightly reduce new conviction recidivism and do not reduce overall recidivism. Therefore, they cannot be used to curb Iowa?s growing prison population and so not result in overall cost savings (although some savings were apparent at individual prisons).

When in-prison treatment was combined with post-release community supervision, the recidivism rates dropped from 21% to 11% for new convictions. However, the rates for prisoners who needed treatment, but did not receive it in prison, but received community supervision were even lower, dropping from 17.5% to 10.6% new conviction recidivism after one year.

The audit found no statewide method for determining the level of substance abuse programming needs, no standardized statewide programming and no matching of prisoners? needs with the program most likely to produce positive results. It also found many low and low/moderate risk prisoners receiving treatment while moderate and high risk--who were more likely to benefit from treatment--were released without treatment.

The report recommended that the DOC enhance community support networks and post-release support and supervision, develop a system for monitoring program performance using evidence-based practices, integrate the programs system wide, and find a way to positively reinforce staff self-image.

Sources: Des Moines Register, Performance Audit Report of Iowa DOC?s Licensed Substance Abuse Program dated May 25, 2007 - Iowa Department of Management.

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