Feasibility of a computerized intervention for offenders with substance use disorders: A research note

Michael Chaple, Stanley Sacks, Karen McKendrick, Lisa A. Marsch, Steven Belenko, Carl Leukefeld, Michael Prendergast, Michael French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objectives: Despite evidence that treatment is effective in reducing recidivism among inmates with substance use problems, scarce resources mean that few of those in need of treatment actually receive it. Computerized substance abuse interventions could be used to expand access to treatment in prisons without placing an undue burden on resources. The major aim of the study was to compare treatment conditions in terms of their service utilization, skills acquisition, and treatment satisfaction. Methods: The study recruited men and women with substance use disorders from 10 prisons in 4 states. In an open label clinical trial, 494 subjects were randomly assigned either to the Experimental condition, a computerized drug treatment intervention, the Therapeutic Education System (TES; n = 249), or to the Control condition, Standard Care (n = 245). Chi-square tests compared groups on categorical variables and independent samples t tests were used for interval level continuous variables. Results: Initial evidence demonstrated: (1) comparable group rates of session attendance and high rates of TES module completion for experimental subjects; (2) comparable group gains in the development of coping skills; and (3) a more favorable view of TES than of Standard Care. Conclusions: Collectively, these results show that a computerized intervention, such as TES, can be implemented successfully in prison. Given the barriers to the delivery of substance abuse treatment typically encountered in correctional settings, computerized interventions have the potential to fill a significant treatment gap and are particularly well suited to inmates with mild to moderate substance use disorders who often are not treated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-127
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AcknowledgmentsThe authors wish to express their appreciation for the exceptional contributions of their lead research staff; specifically, Doris Weiland from Temple University in Pennsylvania, Tobie Reeser from the University of Kentucky, Meghan Lynch from the University of California Los Angeles and the Washington State DOC site, and Bisma Sayed from the University of Miami. The authors also wish to thank Dr. Barry Brown for his insightful review of the article. Finally, the authors wish to recognize the partnerships established with the three Departments of Corrections (DOC); namely, the Colorado DOC, the Washington State DOC, and the Pennsylvania DOC. Without the assistance of the staff of these systems, the study could not have been conducted. The study was supported by grant #5RC2-DA-028967, “Computerized Psychosocial Treatment for Offenders with Substance Use Disorders,” from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health, as part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIDA or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


  • Computerized intervention
  • Correctional settings
  • Offenders
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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