DOJ considers expanding inmate access to drug treatment

DOJ considers expanding inmate access to drug treatment
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The Obama administration is trying to give more federal prisoners access to a residential drug treatment program.

The Department of Justice is considering making revisions to update the rules governing the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program. Since inmates no longer have to pass a written test to complete the program, DOJ said the program rules are inaccurate and impose a requirement that no longer exists. The program instead uses clinical observation and clinical evaluation of inmate behavior change to assess their readiness to complete the program.

The DOJ wants to remove language from the regulations that calls for the automatic removal of an inmate from the program if he or she has an incident, whether they are caught using alcohol or drugs, being violent or attempting to escape.


In the proposed rule, thte DOJ said removing the language would give the Bureau of Prisons more latitude and clinical discretion when determining which inmates should be expelled from the program.

In revising the rule, the agency would give at least one formal warning before removing an inmate from the program, unless there is a documented lack of compliance and the inmate’s continued participation would present an immediate problem for staff or other inmates.

The agency is also considering making more inmates eligible for release up to one year early upon the completion of a residential drug abuse treatment program. The current rules preclude inmates from being eligible for an early release if they have a prior felony or misdemeanor conviction for homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, kidnapping or an offense that involves sexual abuse of minors.

Under the new rules, inmates with prior felony or misdemeanor convictions would be eligible for early release if the prior conviction was imposed 10 years before they were sentenced for the crime for which they are currently serving time.   

DOJ said residential drug treatment programs reduce recidivism. A study showed that male inmates were 16 percent less likely to be re-arrested and 15 percent less likely to relapse than inmates who do not participate in programs for up to three years after their release. Meanwhile, female inmates were 18 percent less likely to be re-arrested.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.