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Building an Effective Research Partnership Between a University and a State Correctional Agency: Assessment of Drug Treatment in Pennsylvania Prisons

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 84 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2004 Pages: 143-170
Date Published
June 2004
28 pages

This article examines a project to develop a collaborative research partnership between Temple University’s Center for Public Policy and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC).


Like most other States, Pennsylvania lacks the necessary resources to evaluate the wide range of treatment programs offered to thousands of inmates within its institutions. Recognizing that most State correctional agencies do not have substantial in-house research and evaluation resources, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) encourages partnerships between correctional agencies and research institutions that can provide such expertise specifically tailored to meet State and local needs. The purpose of this project was to develop a collaborative research partnership between Temple University’s Center for Public Policy and the DOC with a demonstration project that included: 1) a descriptive assessment of drug and alcohol programming including the identification of critical service delivery components and goals; 2) an intensive on-site process evaluation of representative programs at two institutions; and 3) the preparation of an outcome evaluation research design on the basis of analyses and discussion between Temple and the DOC. Working with DOC officials, researchers designed a survey instrument to collect three types of descriptive information about programs: 1) program content; 2) program staff members; and 3) inmates. The goals of the survey were to identify critical program variations, facilitate discussions about the characteristics of effective programming, and build a statewide database and the capacity for further studying these efforts. The survey respondents were DOC personnel responsible for directing alcohol and other drug (AOD) programs at each of the 24 DOC institutions. Researchers completed surveys from all 118 DOC AOD programs identified for the study. Results of the survey showed that there was considerable variation in program duration and intensity; that prison-based drug treatment was eclectic, drawing on different approaches; that the importance of specific target selection criteria varied somewhat across programs; and that staffing ratios were similar within program types but varied considerably from one institution to another. Eight key recommendations, supportive findings, and policy actions taken as a result of the survey are discussed in this report, as is an evaluation of the partnership between Temple University and the DOC. The researchers found that the partnership has been mutually rewarding for both the University and the agency. In addition, the Pennsylvania DOC is to be commended for its active participation as a partner in this research enterprise and for its willingness to constructively examine its programming for substance-abusing offenders. 2 tables, 10 notes, and 56 references

Date Published: June 1, 2004