Blog: News & Views from the Field

Knowledge can be empowering. Whether you are seeking recovery for yourself or someone else, we hope you find our blog topics helpful. Check back often or subscribe today.

Prison Rehabilitation Success: The Untold Story

As the presidential campaigns are starting and the candidates are formulating their battle strategies, criminal justice reform is the one place with surprising agreement. We see leaders and supporters of both parties joining forces to advance criminal justice reform and support treatment efforts throughout the system.

A number of historical developments have set the stage for the shift from being primarily “tough on crime” to effective treatment, but the critical role of substance abuse treatment in the history of rehabilitation in American Corrections is often overlooked. It is important to challenge this omission of the important role played by substance abuse treatment; primarily therapeutic communities (TCs) that have become the vanguard of effective rehabilitation in most U.S. prison systems. By focusing on treatment of substance abusers, a classification that includes most offenders and is highly correlated with recidivism, it became possible to introduce effective rehabilitation programming into prisons and to begin challenging the old adage that “nothing works in correctional rehabilitation”.

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Recovery Through Entrepreneurship

Reentry and reintegration of criminal justice clients are the primary goals of all criminal justice rehabilitative efforts.  There are few who would disagree that jobs are a major key to successful recovery.  There is a need for a fresh approach to employment through entrepreneurial trainings and opportunities for prison inmates and participants in community substance abuse treatment programs.  The focus of this blog is on increasing employment opportunities for substance abusers as a means of aiding recovery, reducing recidivism and facilitating a prosocial lifestyle. The need to improve employment opportunities is evident from the substance abuse and criminal justice literature. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment in reducing drug use and recidivism, while employment – an important aspect of a prosocial lifestyle -- has lagged behind. Thus, new models for providing vocational training must be developed. In light of this need, the proposed alliance support the utilization of social entrepreneurship as a means of making vocational training a more significant treatment tool, one that is thoroughly integrated into the recovery process.

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Integrated TC Treatment for Offenders with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Psychiatric Histories

I recently had the opportunity to present to Spectrum staff and criminal justice administrators in Georgia on prison TC treatment of co-occurring disorders (COD). The Georgia DOC is forward thinking and very interested in effective prison treatment and a strong supporter of Spectrum’s COD treatment approach.  I have taken this blog opportunity to share the Georgia presentation.

Historically, mental health and substance abuse treatment have been seen as separate entities with different procedures, professional orientations and certifications.  In recent years, there has been a growing realization that COD disorders that include both a mental health and substance abuse diagnoses are more the norm then the exception and the preferred treatment approach based on both research findings and best practices is to treat both at the same time in an integrated approach. Spectrum is a leader in this area and is a firm supporter of integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, both in prison and the community.

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Spectrum’s Integrated Cognitive Behavioral/Therapeutic Community Model

Spectrum Health Systems is a leader in creating integrated treatment models that bring together the best of therapeutic community (TC) and cognitive behavioral approaches (CBT).  I have recently had the pleasure of working with Spectrum senior staff Peter Paolantonio, Christopher Petrozzi and Cindy Buraczynski to write a groundbreaking article “Integrated Cognitive Behavioral Treatment in Prison-Based Therapeutic Communities” that was recently published in the “Offender Programs Report” a well-respected publication that is widely read by treatment professionals.  Publishing is important because it provides an opportunity to share what we have learned and helps bring national attention to the excellent work at Spectrum.

A long-standing controversy in the substance treatment field has been whether the TC or CBT models are more effective.  For a long time I have felt that this question is somewhat misleading and out of date since most effective programs usually include elements of both approaches.  Over the last few years while serving as Senior Research Advisor at Spectrum, I have had the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation of Spectrum’s integrated approach.  Based upon the work at Spectrum, the decision was made to share its approach with the larger community of substance abuse and criminal justice professionals. 

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Justice Reinvestment Initiative Shows Promising Results

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I have worked in the field of addictions with a primary focus on treatment, criminal justice and corrections for more than 40 years. As Spectrum’s Senior Research Advisor, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss issues and current trends that have wide-spread relevance. It’s an exciting time at Spectrum as the organization continually refines its programming and seeks to build upon its national presence including program operations throughout Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington State.

My first blog involves criminal justice reform which has become a major interest of mine in recent years.   While working as the editor on a special issue of the Prison Journal (2011) designed to inform and support Congressional criminal justice reform efforts, I reviewed an exciting and innovative multi-state project that incorporates proven recidivism reduction policies and provides reinvestment funds for programming targeted to high crime neighborhoods.

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