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Breaking the Cycle of Drugs and Crime: Findings from the Birmingham BTC Demonstration

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 189-216
Date Published
27 pages

This article examines the success rate for Breaking the Cycle (BTC), a pretrial intervention program for felony defendants.


Breaking the Cycle (BTC) is a multisite demonstration program designed to test the feasibility and impact of a coordinated effort to respond to drug use with consistent and effective intervention. The program involves the collaboration of several agencies, such as treatment providers and probation departments, with the goal of early intervention for drug involved offenders throughout the duration of their involvement with the criminal justice system. Program planners identified four core BTC components: early screening, required participation in drug interventions, use of graduated sanctions in response to drug testing failures, and expanded judicial monitoring of compliance with requirements. The impact evaluation of BTC in Birmingham, Alabama was designed to determine the effect of BTC participation on key outcomes such as recidivism and drug use. The samples were interviewed shortly after arrest and again 9 months later using a modified version of the Addiction Severity Index. The results suggest that intervention with drug-involved offenders can begin shortly after arrest for a much larger portion of the arrestee population than is targeted by drug courts or pretrial diversion programs. BTC accepted defendants with mostly felony charges providing they qualified for a bond and were able to secure release. BTC succeeded in making referral for drug screening a routine condition of release, using lower bonds as an incentive for cooperation. The program records indicate drug users were referred to treatments that were appropriate for the level of severity of their drug problems and that most of those referred to treatment were placed in services. The result was an increase in the pool of defendants released, which helped reduce jail overcrowding without a significant increase in threat to public safety. Findings indicate that the benefits of this program include significant reductions in drug use and some reduction in crime. The program also helped to increase coordination among the partner agencies and established a forum for future planning. 3 figures, 6 tables, 8 footnotes, 28 references

Date Published: January 1, 2002