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Program Profile: Washington State’s Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on November 10, 2015

Program Summary

This program is an alternative to incarceration for felony offenders with substance abuse problems. In lieu of confinement, offenders must successfully complete a residential, chemical-dependency treatment program in the community. The program is rated Promising. Residential DOSA was shown to significantly reduce overall recidivism rates compared with prison-based DOSA.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) is a law that was passed in Washington State in 1995, which allows incarcerated offenders with substance abuse problems to receive a reduced prison sentence in exchange for completing a chemical-dependency treatment program. In 2005, a modification to the law created a "residential" DOSA, which allows offenders to receive chemical-dependency treatment in the community in lieu of confinement. The primary goal of residential DOSA is to reduce rates of recidivism by increasing community-based treatment alternatives for substance-abusing offenders.

Eligibility
For prison-based DOSA, offenders must not have current or prior convictions for a violent offense or a sex offense in the last 10 years, a current conviction for felony DWI, any sentencing enhancements (i.e., criminal attempt, solicitation, conspiracy), a deportation order, or a prior sentence to DOSA in the last 10 years.

For residential DOSA, offenders must meet all the requirements for prison-based DOSA, and meet two sentence-length requirements: 1) the high end of the standard sentence range for the current offense must be greater than 1 year; and 2) the midpoint of the standard sentence range must be 24 months or fewer. Consistent with these requirements, all offenders that meet the criteria for residential DOSA also meet the criteria for prison-based DOSA; however, not all offenders sentenced to prison-based DOSA will meet the criteria for residential DOSA.

Ultimately, judges, aided by the advice of prosecutors and defense attorneys, decide whether an offender receives a residential DOSA sentence.

Program Activities
Under residential DOSA, the chemical-dependency treatment program is a minimum of 90 days. Offenders receive treatment at a Washington State Department of Corrections-funded residential facility. The types of services provided to the offender vary, depending on the severity of the substance abuse problem.

Offenders must voluntarily agree to participate in chemical-dependency treatment and urine testing. Residential treatment staff cannot prevent offenders from leaving the facility. However, offenders are returned to confinement (either prison or jail) to serve the remainder of their sentence if they do not complete treatment. Once the residential treatment term has been satisfied, offenders must serve 2 years under community supervision or half of the midsentence range, whichever is greater, and attend continued outpatient treatment.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Total Recidivism
Drake, Fumia, and He (2014) found that offenders who received chemical-dependency treatment under the residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) had significantly lower rates of total recidivism compared with offenders in the prison-based DOSA. Offenders in the residential DOSA group had a 52 percent recidivism rate compared with a 58 percent recidivism rate of prison-based DOSA offenders (a significant difference).

However, these findings should be interpreted with caution, because the study did not include a no-treatment comparison group. Rather, the study compared one form of DOSA (residential) with another form (prison-based).
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Drake, Fumia, and He (2014) used a quasi-experimental research design to evaluate the impact of Washington State's Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) on recidivism rates 36 months after treatment. For inclusion into the study, offenders had to be offered the alternative sentencing option by a judge and voluntarily agreed to substance abuse treatment.

The treatment group (n=1,162) consisted of offenders sentenced to residential DOSA from 2006 to 2010. The comparison group (n=508) consisted of offenders sentenced to the prison-based DOSA from 2006 to 2010. Although the comparison group had met the criteria for and would have likely been considered for residential DOSA, they were unable to be placed into the program for the following reasons: 1) the residential treatment facility had reached its capacity, or 2) their county did not offer residential DOSA.

The authors were unable to construct a no-treatment control group; therefore, any effects were based on comparison of one treatment with another. Propensity score matching was used to select members of the comparison group. The samples of offenders were predominantly male (72 percent of the treatment group, 70 percent of comparison group), white (82 percent of the treatment group, 81 percent of the comparison group), and about 34 years old.

The primary outcomes of interest were recidivism rates at a 36-month, follow-up period. The measure of total recidivism included any misdemeanor or felony conviction after release into the community. Logistic regression was used to control for any differences between the two groups and examine the impact of treatment.
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Cost

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Drake, Fumia, and He (2014) found that Washington State’s Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) was $564 more expensive per offender than prison-based DOSA. Residential DOSA cost $16,740 per offender versus $16,176 per offender for prison-based DOSA. They also found that the cost of a treatment program in a residential facility and the cost of supervision were higher for residential DOSA offenders. They calculated a total recidivism savings of $8,259 when considering the impact of residential DOSA on decreased crime victim and taxpayer costs.
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Other Information

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Drake, Fumia, and He (2014) conducted a subgroup analysis of the impact of the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) by offender risk level. They found that 76 percent of the residential DOSA participants were classified as high risk for re-offending. The recidivism rates for the higher-risk offenders in residential DOSA were significantly reduced, while there were no improvements in recidivism rates for the lower- and moderate-risk offenders in residential DOSA. This finding is consistent with the risk-needs-responsivity (RNR) principle, which suggests interventions and supervision should be commensurate with an offender’s risk level. In other words, higher-risk offenders should receive more treatment and supervision than lower-risk offenders (Drake, Fumia, and He 2014).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Drake, Elizabeth K., Danielle Fumia, and Lijian He. 2014. Washington's Residential Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: Recidivism & Benefit-Cost Analysis. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1577/Wsipp_Washingtons-Residential-Drug-Offender-Sentencing-Alternative-Recidivism-Cost-Analysis_Report.pdf
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Aos, Steve, Polly Phipps, and Robert Barnoski. 2005. Washington's Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: An Evaluation of Benefits and Costs. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Drake, Elizabeth. 2006. Washington's Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: An Update on Recidivism Findings. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Drake, Elizabeth. 2008. Drug Offender Sentencing Grid: Preliminary Report. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Washington State Department of Corrections. 2008. Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: Combining Incarceration and Chemical Dependency Treatment. Olympia, Wash.: Department of Corrections, Washington State.

Washington State Department of Corrections. 2013. Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative: Combining Incarceration and Chemical Dependency Treatment, Factsheet. Olympia, Wash.: Department of Corrections, Washington State.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White

Setting (Delivery): Residential (group home, shelter care, nonsecure), Correctional

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Alternatives to Incarceration, Probation/Parole Services, Residential Treatment Center

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center

Training and TA Provider:
Dawn Williams
Substance Abuse Programs Administrator
Washington State Department of Corrections, Offender Change Divisions
Phone: 360.725.8602
Email