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Process Evaluation of the Rhode Island Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program (RSAT): The Operations of a Minimum-Security Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
56 pages
This final report provided a process evaluation of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections Minimum Security Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program (RSAT). It examined the inner workings of a cognitive behavioral residential treatment program for male inmates in a minimum-security facility.
The Rhode Island Department of Corrections, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc., and the Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies at Brown University collaborated on the process evaluation of a residential substance abuse treatment program (RSAT) established in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections minimum-security unit for men. The program is based on a relapse prevention model and centered on an academic format. It teaches inmates how to adapt in the community and focus on productive and healthy lifestyles. The program is called the Correctional Recovery Academy. This process evaluation provided the perspective on how well the service was being delivered and whether there were any operational problems with the program. The program evaluation consisted of both quantitative (criminal history data and institution performance records) and qualitative (observation, document review, focus groups, informal discussions, and interviews with inmates) approaches to obtain process and outcome data. The study consisted of two comparison groups; the Spectrum participants were those with substance abuse treatment needs and longer sentences and the Talbot participants were those with substance abuse treatment needs and shorter sentences. Major findings and implications included: (1) the major obstacle to success in the program centered on the reading level of material and some of its content; (2) inmates’ responses to the focus group questions were predictable based on previous behavior and level of commitment to recovery; (3) the structure of the program (focus on behavior) was a feature most closely associated with inmate success; (4) inmates were particularly positive about the use of "Seminars", engaging the offenders by offering them a venue to explore their own issues and ways to address them; (5) offenders who were successful in either program (intervention or comparison) usually also identified a particular staff member with whom they had established a relationship; (6) an important question addressed in the process evaluation was whether the program presented to the inmates resembled the program presented in the curriculum which was supported; (7) based on discussions with inmates, inmates most likely to be least satisfied with the program were among dropouts and returnees, of which many expressed interest in re-enrolling; (8) the majority of program participants expressed they were getting what they expected from the program (this suggested that the most effective strategy to recruit inmates is to engage them in the process); (9) of the 173 Spectrum inmates studied, 55 percent completed, 36 percent were terminated, and 9 percent withdrew from the program (there were significant differences between Spectrum and Talbot graduates--Talbot graduates were younger, more likely Hispanic and more likely to have a drug possession charge); and (10) Correctional Recovery Academy staff were generally positive about the program; the major negative comment was the concern that the program did not let staff have enough flexibility in adapting to special characteristics of the groups they were working with. The most important programmatic implications of these results were that most inmates could function well within a behavioral base program in a residential treatment program.

Date Published: January 1, 2001