Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP)

Program Goals

The Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program was developed by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the first prosecution-led residential drug treatment diversion program in the country. The program’s objective is to reduce recidivism and drug use by diverting nonviolent felony drug offenders to community-based residential treatment. The program attempts to incorporate three fundamental components of effective treatment: a high level of structure, a long period of intervention, and flexibility.


Target Population/Eligibility

DTAP targets all drug-addicted, nonviolent repeat felony offenders arrested in Brooklyn that face mandatory sentencing under New York State’s second felony offender law (the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State were revised in April 2009 to remove mandatory minimum sentences). To be eligible to participate, defendants must be 18 years or older, currently charged with a felony, and have at least one prior felony. Defendants must also be addicted to drugs and in need of substance abuse treatment; the addiction should be a contributing factor in their criminal activities. To avoid net-widening and ensure the program is serving a prison-bound population, cases are accepted if the District Attorney’s Office can determine that the evidence assures a high likelihood of felony conviction. Defendants who meet the eligibility criteria receive a clinical screening and assessment by Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes (or TASC), a nonprofit criminal justice case management organization in New York City. Case information is also reviewed by DTAP’s enforcement team. After a thorough review of the screening information, the final decision to accept a defendant into the program is made by the Alternative Programs Bureau of the District Attorney’s Office.


DTAP uses a deferred-sentencing model. Defendants that are accepted into the program plead guilty to a felony but the prison sentence is deferred while participants enter intensive residential drug treatment, followed by optional aftercare services. Those participants who successfully completed DTAP treatment are permitted to withdraw their guilty plea and have the case dismissed. Those participants who drop out or fail the program are brought back to court and sentenced on the guilty plea.


Services Provided

DTAP participants are sent to long-term, intensive, residential drug treatment programs for a duration of 15 to 24 months. The programs follow the traditional therapeutic community philosophy and structure, which includes providing participants with treatment services in a highly structured and supervised community-based residential environment. Treatment services emphasize self-help in recovery through individual and group counseling sessions and by using the dynamics of communal living to teach participants about positive, personal, and social values and behavior.


DTAP participants go through an orientation period during the first 3 months of treatment in order to adjust to the therapeutic community environment. Participants learn about the program’s policies and procedures, and are introduced to the core issues of addiction and recovery. The primary treatment period occurs during the next 4 to 18 months of the program. During this time, participants go through individual, group, and family counseling sessions that focus on personal and relationship problems. The program also provides vocational and educational programs and assigns in-house work assignments and responsibilities to prepare participants for employment after treatment. Finally, participants begin a gradual reentry process back into the community once they have secured a job and found an appropriate living arrangement. The focus of treatment becomes maintaining sobriety, preventing relapse, and adjusting to independent living. Aftercare is supervised by the case manager and also includes access to a job developer, and an informal, voluntary alumni group.


DTAP staff monitors participants’ progress through treatment. Treatment providers submit monthly progress reports, and participants who receive poor reports are brought back to court and warned of the legal consequences of noncompliance. DTAP staff is notified by treatment providers within 24 hours if a participant absconds from the program. The District Attorney’s Warrant Enforcement Team obtains an arrest warrant and is responsible for apprehending and returning absconders to court.


Key Personnel

The DTAP program involves a collaboration of six key criminal justice players, including the assistant district attorney, the TASC organization, the District Attorney’s Warrant Enforcement Team, New York City Department of Probation and the New York State Department of Parole, defense attorneys, and the presiding judge.

Intervention ID

18 to 100


Study 1

Rearrest Prevalence

Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program participants (completers and failures) had a significantly lower rearrest rate compared to nonparticipants during the first time period examined by Dynia and Sung (2000). Of the 272 program participants, 12 were rearrested: 3 were rearrested during the treatment period, 7 failures were rearrested during the at-large period, and 2 failures were rearrested after sentencing. Of the 215 nonparticipants, 28 were rearrested: 26 were rearrested during the pretrial period and 2 were rearrested during the sentencing period.


Looking at the hazard rates (the probability of rearrest) during the first 24 months following the initial arrest, the hazard rate was higher for nonparticipants than for program participants. During the first 6 months, the rearrest probability was 0.02 (2 out of 100) for nonparticipants, versus 0.002 (2 out of 1,000) for DTAP participants.


Follow-up Rearrest Prevalence

DTAP completers had significantly lower rearrest rates during the second time period (3 years following treatment), compared to program failures and nonparticipants. After 3 years, 23 percent of completers had been rearrested, compared to 47 percent of nonparticipants and 52 percent of failures. The rearrest rates for failures and nonparticipants were similar throughout the follow-up. DTAP completers were also less likely to be arrested for felonies and drug offenses, but the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.


Study 2

Across the various outcome measures and analyses, Belenko, Foltz, Lang, and Sung (2004) found that overall participation in the DTAP program led to reduction in the prevalence and rate of recidivism and delayed time to first rearrest.


Overall Recidivism Prevalence

The analysis compared the prospective sample of DTAP participants to the comparison group (the retrospective sample of DTAP participants was not included). Participating in DTAP reduced the odds of a new rearrest by 56 percent, a new reconviction by 60 percent, a new jail sentence by 59 percent, and a new prison sentence by 65 percent.


The differences remained significant after controlling for several measures of prior criminal record. Logistic regression showed that the comparison group was twice as likely as DTAP participants to be rearrested, reconvicted, or receive a new jail sentence, and three times more likely to receive a new prison sentence. The analysis of variance found the adjusted annual arrest rate for posttreatment or postprison arrests was almost twice as high for the comparison group than for prospective DTAP participants.


Rearrest by Time in the Community

The analysis showed that 23 percent of prospective DTAP participants (completers and dropouts) were rearrested in the 1st year after release from treatment or prison, compared with 45 percent of comparison group members. Among those with at least 4 years in the community, 55 percent of DTAP participants had at least one rearrest during this period, compared with 80 percent of those in the comparison group. Significant group differences were also found at 2 and 3 years in the community, suggesting that treatment effects remained over time.


Time to First Rearrest

The analysis also included retrospective and prospective DTAP participants (completers and dropouts). The results of the survival analysis showed that, with the exception of the retrospective dropout sample, participation in DTAP led to a significant delay in the time to first rearrest, with the strongest effect shown among DTAP completers. The odds of being rearrested were reduced by 47 percent for the prospective DTAP completers, by 53 percent for the retrospective completers, and by 40 percent for the prospective dropouts in relation to the comparison group.

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