Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 353–375 | Cite as

Does incarceration-based drug treatment reduce recidivism? A meta-analytic synthesis of the research

  • Ojmarrh MitchellEmail author
  • David B. Wilson
  • Doris L. MacKenzie


This research synthesized results from 66 published and unpublished evaluations of incarceration-based drug treatment programs using meta-analysis. Incarceration-based drug treatment programs fell into five types: therapeutic communities (TCs), residential substance abuse treatment (RSAT), group counseling, boot camps specifically for drug offenders, and narcotic maintenance programs. We examined the effectiveness of each of these types of interventions in reducing post-release offending and drug use, and we also examined whether differences in research findings can be explained by variations in methodology, sample, or program features. Our results consistently found support for the effectiveness of TC programs on both outcome measures, and this finding was robust to variations in method, sample, and program features. We also found support for the effectiveness of RSAT and group counseling programs in reducing re-offending, but these programs’ effects on drug use were ambiguous. A limited number of evaluations assessed narcotic maintenance or boot camp programs; however, the existing evaluations found mixed support for maintenance programs and no support for boot camps.


Corrections Drug offenders Drug treatment Meta-analysis Offenders 



We would like to gratefully acknowledge the Nordic Campbell Center and the Jerry Lee Foundation for partial support of this project. We would also like to thank Matthew Makarios, who helped code numerous evaluations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ojmarrh Mitchell
    • 1
    Email author
  • David B. Wilson
    • 2
  • Doris L. MacKenzie
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Criminal JusticeUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Administration of JusticeGeorge Mason UniversityManassasUSA
  3. 3.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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