Substance Abuse Treatment FAQs
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What type of drug treatment does the Bureau of Prisons offer? (top)

The Bureau offers varied education and treatment options to offenders:

  • Drug Abuse Education classes are offered at every Bureau institution.

  • Non-residential drug abuse treatment is offered at every Bureau institution for offenders with low-level drug problems, those waiting to enter a Residential Drug Abuse program (RDAP), or those who do not have the time to enter and complete the RDAP.

  • RDAPs are designed for those inmates who volunteer for treatment and have documented druge abuse problems. Programs are available at more than half of the Bureau's institutions.

  • Institution Transition Aftercare is offered at every institution for inmates who have completed RDAP. It is a required component of RDAP for those inmates who have not yet transferred to a residential reentry center (RRC), also known as halfway house.

  • Community Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment is available to inmates who have completed RDAP and transferred to an RRC in preparation for their release from Bureau custody and transfer to U.S. Probation for continued supervision.

  • What does RDAP include? (top)

    The Bureau's Commitment. The Bureau is committed to providing high-quality, evidence-based psychology programs to all inmates in need of these services. Bureau Psychology Treatment Programs (PTP) are designed using the most recent research and evidence-based practices, with the goal of:

  • Reducing inmate misconduct;

  • Reducing impact of inmate mental illness and behavioral disorders;

  • Reducing substance abuse, relapse, and recidivism;

  • Reducing criminal activity.

  • Increasing the inmate's stake in societal norms.

  • Increasing the use of standardized community transitional treatment programs, as transitional treatment improves the likelihood of treatment success and thereby increases public safety.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The Bureau's drug abuse programs are unified clinical services and activities organized within a treatment continuum to treat complex psychological and behavioral problems. The Bureau has chosen CBT as its theoretical model because of its proven effectiveness with inmate populations.

    According to this model, a person's feelings and behaviors are influenced by his or her perceptions and core beliefs. By helping inmates perceive events objectively and modify their irrational beliefs, it is expected they will become more successful in achieving pro-social goals. CBT combines different treatment goals and specific conforming behaviors, focusing on an inmate's:

  • Core beliefs

  • Intermediate beliefs

  • Current situation

  • Automatic thoughts and beliefs, and their effects on an emotional, behavioral, and psychological level.

  • As an example, inmates' ongoing criminal behavior is conceived, supported, and perpetuated by a set of habitual thinking errors: both criminal thinking and cognitive thinking errors. Using CBT, the Bureau strives to replace these thinking errors with pro-social thinking, which supports law-abiding behaviors consistent with societal norms.

    CBT is carried out in a separate treatment unit, apart from general population within a therapeutic community milieu that has been modified to meet the special needs/problems of the in-prison population. Research conducted by States, such as Oregon and Delaware, as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), have found the therapeutic community model to be effective with the in-prison population in reducing drug use and criminal recidivism.

    The concept behind a therapeutic community is to teach individuals how to function and live within the greater community as a sober, family friendly, pro-social member of society. Cognitive-behavioral treatment protocols break down criminal thinking, build rational thinking, improve relationships and interpersonal skills, and help participants develop a strategy to maintain recovery and a crime-free lifestyle.

    After an inmate completes the unit-based modified therapeutic community phase of RDAP, he/she must participate in institution and/or community Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment. Institution transition includes a review of RDAP concepts when transferred to the general population. The community transition program is required of all inmates who complete the unit-based portion of RDAP and are later transferred to an RRC, usually for six months at the end of his/her sentence. Community transition includes continued treatment with a community-based treatment provider and a formal treatment report to Officers of the Court, when an inmate leaves Bureau custody and transfers to supervised release under U.S. Probation. This ensures a continuity of care for the inmate under supervision.

    Who can participate in the Bureau's RDAP? (top)

    To qualify, an inmate must:

    1. have a documented pattern of substance abuse in the 12 months prior to arrest for which he/she is serving his/her current sentence;

    2. be able to complete all three phases of RDAP, including community transition drug abuse treatment; and

    3. be diagnosed by the Drug Abuse Program Psychologist as having a drug use disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

    How does an inmate volunteer for treatment? (top)

    An inmate may volunteer by sending a "Request to Staff Member" to a member of the unit team or to the Drug Abuse Program Coordinator at that institution.

    Are offenders able to gain an early release from incarceration if they complete residential treatment? (top)

    The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act allows the Bureau's Director, at his/her discretion, to provide up to one year early release for non-violent inmates who complete the entire RDAP. The RDAP coordinator and legal staff review the offender's record to determine if he/she is or may be eligible for early release. Offenders who are found to be "provisionally" eligible by policy must complete all components of RDAP, including the institution unit-based program; the RDAP aftercare program while in general population, if appropriate; and community transition drug abuse treatment while residing in a Bureau RRC. For further information on early release eligibility, see Program Statements 5330.11 and 5331.02.

    Are inmates with detainers ineligible for early release? (top)

    Ordinarily, if an inmate has a detainer, he/she is unable to furlough transfer to an RRC, and therefore unable to complete the third component of RDAP (community transition services). Inmates with detainers, therefore, are not qualified to participate in RDAP.

    Can an offender participate in RDAP if he/she is not eligible for an early release? (top)

    Yes. Any inmate with documentation of drug use, a diagnosis by the Drug Abuse Psychologist, and able to complete the third component of RDAP (community transition services) may participate in RDAP. In other words, any offender who meets these criteria noted above, whether or not he or she is eligible for the early release, can enter the program.

    Where are RDAPs located? (top)

    Select for current RDAP locations.