Developing employment services for criminal justice clients enrolled in drug user treatment programs

Subst Use Misuse. 2004;39(13-14):2491-511. doi: 10.1081/ja-200034691.


Approximately 80% of parolees have a history of substance abuse and nearly all are unemployed following release from prison. Common stipulations of parole require offenders to obtain employment and to not use mood-altering substances. This article explores a series of strategies implemented from 1999 to 2001 to help offenders paroled to substance user treatment to gain employment. A total of 245 paroled offenders enrolled in an outpatient substance abuse treatment program voluntarily agreed to participate in one of four different vocational intervention programs (Job Skill Development and Supported Work, Life Skill Development, Job Training, and Welfare to Work). Programmatic data (e.g., attendance, completion, job acquisition, and wage) were collected and reported for each of the vocational programs. Additionally, a 12-month pilot study examined criminal justice, substance use, and employment outcomes of 36 offenders referred to the job skill development and supported work project. Overall, 78% of the offenders enrolled in the vocational services completed the program and 134/245 (55%) were able to obtain employment. The data showed that completion of vocational services was strongly associated with obtaining employment 12 months postenrollment. Offenders identified the employment services as an integral part of their improved overall functioning. A series of practice recommendations and policy suggestions is offered to develop and manage vocational services for substance-using offenders. Employment services for parolees require considerable coordination of activities with parole officers, vocational programs, substance abuse treatment professionals, and funding systems.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Crime*
  • Employment*
  • Humans
  • Prisoners
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vocational Guidance*