1. Minnesota Prison-based Chemical Dependency Treatment

Minnesota Prison-based Chemical Dependency Treatment

Program Goals

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MNDOC) provides prison-based chemical dependency (CD) treatment for offenders who are chemically abusive or dependent. The primary goal of in-prison treatment programs is to reduce the recidivism rates of offenders with CD issues once they reenter the community.


Targeted Population/Eligibility

CD treatment offered by the MNDOC is available in seven of the 11 State facilities that house female and male adult offenders. Offenders undergo a brief 20- to 40-minute CD assessment shortly after they’re admitted to prison in Minnesota. On average, about 85 percent of newly admitted prisoners are directed to get CD treatment based on the assessment that shows they are chemically abusive or dependent. The licensed assessors, who determine the CD diagnoses of prisoners, use Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM–IV) criteria for substance abuse. The criteria for abuse include experiencing problems at work or school, having financial problems, having legal problems, and engaging in dangerous behavior while intoxicated. The criteria for dependence include increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, inability to cut down or quit, and a lot of time spent acquiring, using, or recovering from use.


Although the vast majority of newly admitted prisoners are directed to enter CD treatment, not all offenders will have the opportunity to participate in prison-based treatment. This is because the number of treatment-directed offenders (more than 3,000 annually) is greater than the number of treatment slots available (about 1,800 annually). Inmates are instead prioritized to receive treatment based on offender needs and recidivism risk. The amount of time remaining to serve in prison is also another important factor considered when determining who receives treatment.


Program Components

The prison-based CD treatment is based on the therapeutic community model. Inmates in treatment are housed separately from the rest of the prison population. There are typically 15–25 hours of treatment programming per week, and the programs maintain a staff-to-inmate ratio of 1:15. The treatment programs also emphasize to inmates that it is their personal responsibility to identify and acknowledge their criminal and addictive thinking and behavior. CD programming includes educational materials that provide information on the signs and symptoms of CD, as well as the dangers and effects that drug use can have on the body and on family and relationships.


The MNDOC initially offered short- (90 days), medium- (180 days), and long-term (365 days) CD treatment programming. The short-term programming was discontinued in 2006, however, after evidence seemed to suggest that the short-term treatment programs weren’t as effective as the programs that were longer in duration. The medium- and long-term programs primarily focus on the relationship between substance abuse issues and criminal behavior. As inmates progress through the program, they are expected to increase their level of active participation in services. The programs include education, individual counseling, and group counseling components.

Intervention ID

18 to 100


Study 1


The analyses by Duwe (2010) found that, compared to untreated offenders, those offenders who received prison-based chemical dependency (CD) treatment provided by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MNDOC) had significantly lower rates of reoffending across all three recidivism measures (rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration). Among offenders that received CD treatment, program completers had lower recidivism rates compared to program dropouts across all three measures. In addition, offenders who participated in medium-term programs had the lowest recidivism rates, followed by long-term program participants.


The Cox regression analysis, which can control for other factors that may impact the outcome results, showed the same result: participation in prison-based CD treatment significantly reduced the hazard ratio for all three recidivism measures. Treated offenders recidivated less often and more slowly compared to nontreated offenders. CD treatment decreased the hazard by 17 percent for rearrest, 21 percent for reconvictions, and 25 percent for reincarceration of a new crime.


Treatment Outcome

Dropping out of treatment (either quitting or being terminated from the program) did not have a statistically significant effect on any measure of the recidivism measures. Completing treatment did have a significant impact, however. Completing treatment reduced the hazard for rearrest by 22 percent, for reconviction by 20 percent, and for incarceration by 27 percent.


Program Duration

Both short- and medium-term programs had statistically significant effects on all three recidivism measures, while long-term programs did not have a significant effect. Compared to matched nontreated offenders, the hazard ratio for treated offenders in the short-term programs was 18 percent lower for rearrest and reconviction, and 24 percent lower for reincarceration. The hazard ratio for treated offenders in the medium-term programs was 32 percent lower for rearrest, 28 percent lower for reconviction, and 30 percent lower for reincarceration compared to the untreated matched group. This finding seems to suggest that increased treatment time lowers the risk of recidivism, but only up to a point.

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