Recidivism and mortality after in-jail buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2022 Feb 1;231:109254. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.109254. Epub 2022 Jan 18.


Background: Buprenorphine is an effective medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) when offered in community-based settings, but evidence is limited for incarcerated populations, particularly in relation to recidivism. In Massachusetts, Franklin County jail (FCSO) was among the first to provide buprenorphine; adjacent Hampshire County jail (HCHC) offered it more recently. These jails present a natural experiment to determine whether outcomes are different between individuals who did and did not have the opportunity to receive buprenorphine in jail.

Methods: We examined outcomes of all incarcerated adults with opioid use disorder (n = 469) who did (FCSO n = 197) and did not (HCHC n = 272) have the opportunity to receive buprenorphine. The primary outcome was post-release recidivism, defined as time from jail exit to a recidivism event (incarceration, probation violation, arraignment). Using Cox proportional hazards models, we investigated site as a predictor, controlling for covariates. We also examined post-release deaths.

Results: Fewer FCSO than HCHC individuals recidivated (48.2% vs. 62.5%; p = 0.001); fewer FCSO individuals were re-arraigned (36.0% vs. 47.1%; p = 0.046) or re-incarcerated (21.3% vs. 39.0%; p < 0.0001). Recidivism risk was lower in the FCSO group (hazard ratio 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.56, 0.89; p = 0.003), net of covariates (adjusted hazard ratio 0.68, 95% confidence interval 0.53, 0.86; p = 0.001). At each site, 3% of participants died.

Conclusions: Among incarcerated adults with opioid use disorder, risk of recidivism after jail exit is lower among those who were offered buprenorphine during incarceration. Findings support the growing movement in jails nationwide to offer buprenorphine and other agonist medications for opioid use disorder.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Criminal justice settings; Massachusetts Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (MassJCOIN); Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD); Mortality; Naltrexone; Recidivism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Jails
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Recidivism*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine