There link between substance abuse and criminal behavior is well established. Research indicates that approximately 68 percent of new arrestees test positive on a urine screen for one or more illicit drugs and the odds of committing crimes were up to three to four times more likely for individuals using drugs. Furthermore, there is evidence that treating substance abuse leads to a reduction in criminal behavior. The Washington County Community Corrections Department (WCCC) recognized that a sizeable number of its offenders struggle with substance abuse issues and that these offenders need multifaceted support for their recovery. The current study investigates the value of providing substance-free transitional housing to offenders.
WCCC received federal funding to provide offenders with substance-free transitional housing. Oxford Houses offer a self-directed community setting where residents are primarily under the supervision of their peers rather than professional staff. WCCC aimed to pair supervision with substance-free housing to enhance offenders’ abilities to commit to substance-free and crime-free lives. WCCC offers a service-rich environment to its supervisees, with access to substance-free transitional housing as just one of many available supports.
Primary Research Question(S)
- What is the added value of Oxford Houses and other transitional housing services to the combination of services offenders receive?
- What are the relative costs and benefits of substance-free transitional housing services to the taxpayer?
The study sample included offenders residing in Oxford Houses, offenders entering some other form of substance-free transitional housing, and offenders who could benefit from, but did not enter, any form of substance-free transitional housing. A total of 356 WCCC supervisees who began supervision during the sample period were eligible for the study. The study included both interview data collection and administrative records data collection. Interviews were conducted with study participants shortly after the start of their supervision and at 6- and 12-month follow-ups.
The study faced lower than anticipated caseflow which resulted in a reduced sample size and a shortened data collection window. This resulted in a change of study design that made it harder to detect differences between the groups.
Longer lengths of time spent in substance-free transitional housing, over and above the other services received, results in less substance use at follow-up and decreased stress.However, results from this study suggest that there were positive changes for all offenders receiving supervision, regardless of their use of transitional housing. Offenders demonstrated significant increases in employment between baseline and follow-up.
Oxford Houses are a cheaper alternative to other transitional housing and may result in long-term cost savings, although the current study window was too short to measure these savings.
Oxford Houses is a Cost Effective Use of Public Funds. Substance-free transitional housing was related to two positive outcomes: decreased substance use and reductions in stress associated with longer stays in transitional housing. Given these findings, it may be advantageous to invest public funds in substance-free transitional housing programs, and, in particular, in Oxford House, which is a cheaper alternative to traditional substance-free transitional housing.
Programs Should Identify Strategies for Encouraging Longer Lengths of Stay in Substance-Free Transitional Housing. Results from this study indicate that longer lengths of stay in transitional housing predict greater reductions in substance use.
Substance-Free Transitional Housing Should Be Part of a Constellation of Services. WCCC supervisees have access to a variety of services during their period of supervision. Many participants in this study used the Community Corrections Center (offering residential and programmatic services) and received a variety of ancillary services from WCCC.
Worcel, S. D., Burrus, S. W., Finigan, M., Sanders, M. B., & Allen, T. L. (2009). A study of substance-free transitional housing and community corrections in Washington County, Oregon. Portland, OR: NPC Research.