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Cutting down on recidivism
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According to the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), approximately 14 percent of all offenders are in the state correctional system due to drug-related offenses. GDC studies show substance abuse treatment has the ability to cut drug abuse, decrease criminal activity, and reduce rearrests. Such treatment programs break the cycle of drug abuse and incarceration and also can reduce any criminal acts performed due to the drug abuse.

In Georgia, GDC has taken steps in developing programs and institutions focused on substance abuse treatment, with the overall goal of reducing recidivism (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior). Offenders under substance abuse treatment supervision are educated on how drug addiction and abuse can influence and change behavior, are assessed at the beginning of treatment, and are placed through continuous, monitored treatment with a focus on helping the offenders successfully re-enter the community.

Programs within prisons
Placement into the various programs is based on the offenders’ scores on the Texas Christian University Drug Screen (TCUDS), a primary screening tool used by GDC to evaluate substance abuse problems and treatment needs. The Behavior Stabilization program is an eight-lesson program that utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach to help offenders with a drug or alcohol dependency stay sober. For offenders who tested higher on the TCUDS for substance abuse, the Relapse Prevention program is a more intense, 32-lesson program that uses a skills-building group setting to teach criminal offenders methods to maintain sobriety.

Also available for select inmates are Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) programs, which are supported by a few state prisons around the state. These six-month residential drug abuse treatment programs target high-risk, high-needs offenders that have a significant history with substance abuse. These facilities take more of a lifestyle approach by using the Therapeutic Community Model. This treatment design is focused on the needs and risk factors related to substance abusers, with the goal of participants learning real-life ways to live productive lives free of drugs, alcohol, or crime.

Alternative correctional centers and programs
Outside state prisons, the Georgia Department of Corrections has developed probation facilities that also provide substance abuse treatment programs. The populations within these programs range from previous inmates requiring additional supervision to offenders sentenced directly to these probation facilities to serve their full sentence. All probation sites offer the Behavior Stabilization and Relapse Prevention programs, as well as other substance abuse treatment. It should be noted that probationers are responsible for paying regular fees to the state to offset some of the monitoring and rehabilitation costs.

Similar to RSAT, the Department of Corrections created Probation Substance Abuse Treatment Centers (PSATC) for probationers. Participants are court-mandated for these facilities and are typically close to being sent back to prison. PSATCs are also six-month residential programs with the same focus of preparing offenders for a stabilized life in the community.

Across the state, numerous other facilities provide offenders with opportunities to receive substance abuse counseling, cognitive restructuring, and treatment. Facilities such as transitional centers and day reporting centers, along with all other state probation facilities, have developed programs (both residential and nonresidential) to assist offenders in building a substance-free lifestyle and to reduce the recidivism of drug-related crimes statewide.

Moving forward with substance abuse treatment
With the development of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians in 2011, a larger emphasis has been placed on developing more substance abuse treatment services. During the 2012 legislative session, the General Assembly appropriated $5.7 million in the FY2013 budget in order to convert three Pre-Release Centers (PRCs) into RSATs. The goal of the Special Council with this change, as well as with the Criminal Justice Reform legislation passed, is to continue to provide more opportunities for drug-related offenders to receive treatment, which will then help to keep these offenders out of the criminal justice system and expensive prison beds.

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