Drug Treatment:

Despite New Strategy, Few Federal Inmates Receive Treatment

HRD-91-116: Published: Sep 16, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1991.

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Mark V. Nadel
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) provides adequate drug treatment to inmates and arranges for continued care upon their release, focusing on: (1) the number of federal inmates needing drug treatment; (2) the BOP strategy for providing drug treatment services to federal inmates; (3) access to treatment; and (4) treatment costs.

GAO found that: (1) BOP estimated that 27,000 of its 62,000 inmates, about 44 percent of the prison population, have moderate to severe substance abuse problems; (2) only 364 of those inmates are receiving treatment within the BOP intensive treatment program, primarily due to a lack of federal inmate volunteers and an ineffective outreach strategy; (3) although BOP had planned to implement the aftercare component of its program, BOP did not ensure aftercare for inmates completing the intensive treatment program, due to an inadequate implementation strategy; (4) services for inmates with less serious substance abuse problems were not available in all prisons; (5) BOP has fallen behind its own timetable for standardizing drug education and counseling for inmates; (6) BOP plans to expand its treatment program to provide a standardized 40-hour drug education program in each prison; and (7) BOP anticipates that the expansion of its drug treatment strategy will triple its original program costs, from $7.2 million in 1990 to $21.8 million in 1992.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Early release is a strong incentive for inmates to seek treatment while in prison. With the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, BOP will have the authority to deduct up to one year from the statutory release date of non-violent inmates completing the residential drug abuse treatment program. BOP's residential programs are currently full (over 2,900 inmates) and BOP has a waiting list of over 1,400 inmates. BOP is planning to open 9 additional residential programs between now and 1997, for a total of 40.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director, BOP, to undertake an aggressive outreach effort to encourage inmates with moderate to severe substance abuse problems to enroll in the BOP intensive treatment programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1992, BOP executed over 50 contracts for community-based treatment services for inmates completing a BOP drug treatment program and entering a BOP-contracted Community Corrections Center, where inmates continue to receive treatment and after-care services, extended through inmates' time under probation supervision. BOP also approved six transitional services manager positions.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director, BOP, to assure that provision is made for both aftercare treatment services for released inmates who participated in the intensive programs as well as for education and counseling services in all prisons.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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