A team of four faculty members from the Criminal Justice Department at CSULB has been awarded a four-year, $1.87 million grant by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to evaluate residential substance abuse aftercare following release from prison.
Led by co-principal investigators Connie Ireland and Elizabeth Deschenes, the project includes criminal justice faculty Ryan Fischer and Aili Malm, who will join forces with four student researchers to explore the implementation of new substance abuse programs and their outcome for offenders.
"We are thrilled by this opportunity," said Ireland, an assistant professor who is an expert on parole."This shows the credibility we have with big agencies like the CDCR. This is definitely a step in the right direction. It shows how the CSU in general is extremely competitive and qualified. This is cutting-edge research and I'm very proud of it."
The project will perform two kinds of evaluation ─ process and outcome.The outcome evaluation will compare parallel state programs of substance abuse treatment after prison with matched comparison groups of offenders who completed in-prison substance abuse programs in the past.
"We will look at their criminal histories, their housing, employment, mental and physical health, and educational situations, their substance abuse histories and their current level of social support. We will consider all of these factors in assessing the effects of residential drug treatment on recidivism," Ireland explained." We will track data from the time they enter the substance abuse program in prison and measure them again at their release, 90 days later and one year later. The project will continue through 2011."
The process evaluation, she noted, will look at how substance abuse treatment is implemented through interviews with treatment providers, substance abuse counselors and parole agents.
"We'll be looking at such practical aspects as how participants get to their treatment after release from prison," she said. "When prisoners are released, a bed in a treatment facility doesn't sound too appealing. Who is responsible for getting the parolees to their treatment center ─ the prison, the parole agent, the treatment provider, or the parole? We're also looking at possible overlap in supervision responsibilities between parole agents handling the same offender.We'll look at hiccups in implementation and communication between multiple agencies. How are the programs working and how can they do better?"
CSULB criminal justice majors will participate in the project. Ireland said the team is recruiting students who will talk with parole agents and parolees and sift through records.
"They will acquire research skills conducting interviews, performing archival research, entering data, running statistics, and writing reports," she said." They will have the experience of working on a multi-million-dollar grant that will help them get into grad school."
The research will result in frequent presentations at yearly conferences, annual reports on the project's progress, and the publication of multiple papers. It is also a starting point for additional grants.
"Getting this grant improves our chances to get other grants," she said. "It shows that junior faculty at CSULB are qualified and capable. We are experts who can get it done."