Drug Rehab in California Prisons Reduced by Budget Cuts

Drug Rehab in California Prisons Reduced by Budget Cuts

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in California is tasked with administering drug rehab programs for its inmates. However in 2009, the State of California cut approximately $250 million from the Department’s Adult programs budget. As a result, the Department was forced to cut education, vocation and drug rehab programs.

As a result of the cuts, long-term drug rehab has been decreased to just ninety days and is administered closer to the date of parole. The new substance abuse treatment program (SAT) treats almost nine thousand inmates and five thousand people who have been paroled into the community. The SAT is administered in nine male and three female prisons and the programs are required to prepare individualized treatment plans for participants within ten days of enrolling them in the program; transition plans are also required upon program exit.

Since reduction in funding has completely eliminated drug rehab from some facilities, prison intake staff must ration treatment spots and give priority to those inmates who will be released on parole within a year. Inmates who will remain in jail longer than a year are sent to facilities that do not have treatment programs and then transferred to one of the programs once their parole date is within twelve months. The drug rehab program is typically just under or at capacity.

Not surprisingly, the committee tasked with overseeing the drug rehab program questioned the wisdom of decreasing the length of the treatment, even in the face of budget cuts. The department responded by offering several studies that show drug rehab programs lasting ninety days can still provide positive results.

Ninety-day drug rehab is absolute minimum

In July 2009, prison officials met with drug rehab providers to discuss the viability of a ninety-day drug rehab program. It was decided that, given budget restraints, administering a ninety-day program toward the end of incarceration was the best way to effectively stretch an already burdened drug rehab budget. Essential to the success of the shortened program is participation in a community-based aftercare program upon release.

Research has shown that three months is the minimum amount of time needed to reduce substance abuse recidivism rates in moderate and high-risk offenders. The three essential components of the new program are a risk-to-recidivate and criminogenic needs assessment followed by a specialized treatment plan and a plan to link the assessment with community-based aftercare.

Drug rehab programs different for men and women

The Department of Corrections uses Thinking for a Change, a drug rehab program developed by the National Institute of Corrections, for male inmates and Seeking Safety and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for female inmates. Inmates meet three and one-half hours a day, five days a week for a total eighteen hours a week. In order to successfully complete the drug rehab program, inmates must attend eighty percent of their classes.

One of the advantages of the Thinking for a Change program is that it can be administered by counselors who have less than a Master’s degree; this stretches the budget for hiring program counselors. The program focuses on cognitive restructuring, problem solving and social skills. The men also receive instruction on treatment continuation, relapse prevention and preparation for aftercare.

Because female offenders often arrive in prison under different conditions than their male counterparts, different curricula are used for drug rehab in female prisons. DBT focuses on mindfulness, interpersonal skills and regulation of emotions. Seeking Safety teaches safe coping skills and focuses on thinking, behavior, and interpersonal actions related to drug abuse and trauma. Feedback from the programs has been less than stellar. At two of the women’s prisons, counselors complain that there are not enough spots to treat all of those who need drug rehab, and also insist that ninety days of treatment is not enough for those with trauma issues.

Drug rehab relies heavily on community-based aftercare

The Department of Corrections contracts with four private companies to administer the aftercare program. The contractors identify treatment programs and arrange sub-contracts to provide drug rehab to newly paroled individuals. There are close to one thousand sub-contractors within California that provide aftercare and are further broken down into residential (50%), sober living (30%) and outpatient (20%). The goal of all three types of treatment include reducing the chance of relapse and criminal recidivism, while helping parolees successfully integrate back into the community.

The residential drug rehab programs offer food and shelter with structured activities; sober living provides shelter in a drug and alcohol free setting, and outpatient programs provide drug rehab treatment by addiction professionals in clinical settings.

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