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Evaluation of the Breaking the Cycle Demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama: Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2001
102 pages

This report presents findings on the impact of the Breaking the Cycle (BTC) program in Birmingham, AL, on offenders and the criminal justice system, and analyzes the costs and benefits of BTC services intended to address offender drug abuse.


Birmingham became the first site in the multi-site research and demonstration BTC project in 1996. The BTC model had four elements: (1) early intervention through identifying offenders eligible for drug treatment immediately after arrest, (2) close judicial oversight of participation in drug treatment, (3) the use of graduated sanctions and incentives to retain offenders in treatment, and (4) close collaboration between criminal justice agencies and drug treatment. The impact analysis used a quasi-experimental design to compare 137 offenders selected prior to full implementation to 245 offenders eligible for the full range of BTC interventions. The evaluation also examined changes in court system operations and the effects of these changes on case disposition, duration, and sentencing. Results revealed consistent indications of reductions in criminal activity and drug use among drug-involved defendants, although less indication of declines in drug-related problems such as physical or mental health problems. The analysis also noted that these results needed interpretation in terms of the actual services delivered, because BTC implementation diverged in important respects from the model initially envisioned. Findings also indicated that BTC made important contributions for the functioning of the justice system in Birmingham despite the implementation problems. Findings indicated the benefits of increased early intervention with drug-involved defendants, although these findings were from only one site and should be considered preliminary. Tables, figures, appended methodological information and instrument for measuring addiction severity, and 16 references

Date Published: June 1, 2001