Drug Treatment:

State Prisons Face Challenges in Providing Services

HRD-91-128: Published: Sep 20, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether state prisons are providing drug treatment and arranging for aftercare services once inmates are released, focusing on the: (1) number of state inmates with substance abuse problems who need drug treatment and the number who receive it; (2) provisions for drug treatment by state prisons and arrangements for continuous care or aftercare for inmates upon their release; and (3) obstacles to providing drug treatment in state prisons.

GAO found that: (1) of the nation's 680,000 state inmates, more than 500,000 may have substance abuse problems, but state prisons can provide drug treatment to just over 100,000 inmates; (2) although the estimates of the percentage of inmates with substance abuse problems ranged from 70 to 85 percent in each of the 5 states visited, no more than 10 percent of inmates were in any type of drug treatment; (3) many state prisons attempt to optimize their treatment capacity by targeting their more intensive treatment to those inmates nearing release, but many inmates are released without receiving any drug treatment services; (4) services available in state programs range from drug education, self-help, and professional counseling programs to more intensive residential treatment programs and programs that include aftercare upon release; (5) challenges to treatment efforts include limited funding for providing treatment services, security considerations, and difficulties in assuring the availability of aftercare; and (6) state officials expressed a need for more information from the federal government on how to develop and implement effective prison treatment programs.