Leslie Cooper (Terry) and Dr. Stephen Bahr, Department of Sociology
This research was a follow-up of previous research done by Dr. Stephen Bahr, looking at recidivism rates of offenders who had been through a jail substance abuse program in 2006. The research took place at a county jail in the intermountain United States. Dr. Bahr did follow-up interviews and looked up whether or not they went back to jail or prison for more than 30 days. My hypothesis was expanded to include not only recidivism, but also to examine whether or not they relapsed. Since we were not able to interview many respondents, we measured relapse by if they had a drug charge (excluding ones that got dismissed). I expanded my hypothesis to say that not only would the jail substance abuse program help reduce recidivism, but it would also help reduce the chances of relapse.
In the analysis, I had two dependent variables. Similar to the other evaluations done of the program, the first dependent variable, recidivism, was based on the way Dr. Bahr had previously defined recidivism. He defined recidivism as returning to jail or prison for 30 days or more. The second dependent variable was whether or not the respondents got a drug charge after they completed the program. I thought it interesting to also see whether or not they relapsed after completing the program. However, after running regression analyses, there were no statistically significant results for either of the dependent variables. I believe this was mainly because of the small sample size (N=140). This disproved my both my hypotheses.
There were also many other limitations that I need to discuss. We were not able to interview most of the respondents, since our tracking data was 5-6 years old. We had phone numbers from 2006 for most respondents, but many numbers were disconnected or were wrong numbers and I had no way of getting in contact. We were able to find a few who were successful in staying clean and out of trouble, and also interviewed a few who were currently in the county jail. However, we were able to find quantitative data on the arrests, charges, and jail time through an online database and the records at the county jail. Also, because we were not able to interview all the respondents, we only had a few controls to use. Perhaps if there were more controls, the results would be different.
From the few interviews we were able to sit in on, there were several points that I would like to include. It really seems that unless there is a strong social foundation of support from family or friends, it is incredibly hard for an offender to re-adjust to life outside incarceration and make a life for themselves. There also has to be a “turning point” in a person’s life where they decide they don’t want to continue living that lifestyle and are going to make some changes. That choice needs to be accompanied by a lot of pure motivation and purpose, or else it will be incredibly hard to stay clean. Even though the results did not seem to support the claim that the program helped offenders stay clean and out of jail, those who had gone through the program and were successful at changing their lives seemed to be grateful of the things they learned by going through the program. They were able to turn their lives around and really apply what they had learned.
The results of this study would lead to the conclusion that the program should be discontinued, but more research is necessary with larger sample sizes, and a more representative sample of the larger United States. I recognize the value in what the program teaches. Also, it would be interesting to re-evaluate the program again with a different sample size. Since this research started in 2006, the jail substance abuse program has made many changes including expanding from a 30-day program to a 90-day program. Further research could examine if the changes to the program could make a bigger difference than previously found. I plan to look over the research a few more times and polishing my research paper before submitting it to an academic journal such as Criminology.