Research / Themes / Shaping policy / Prison drug treatment outcomes

Dr. Welsh has collaborated with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) and other state agencies on several large, multisite studies of prison-based drug treatment, funded by federal and state grant awards. Projects included a NIJ-funded study to develop an ongoing research partnership between Temple University and PADOC that would serve as a model for other academic/criminal justice partnerships (NIJ, 2004). These efforts led to a detailed process evaluation and survey of all PADOC drug treatment programs. Drs. Welsh and Zajac developed an instrument to collect descriptive information about 118 prison-based drug treatment programs in 24 state prisons. The census assessed program content and structure (e.g., program type, duration, and primary treatment approach), program staff (e.g., duties and staffing ratios), and inmates (e.g., eligibility and intake procedures). Both within- and between-subjects differences were examined across programs, leading to major AOD treatment program and policy revisions within PADOC (Welsh & Zajac, 2004a, 2004b). Dr. Welsh subsequently designed and led a quasi-experimental multisite study to examine individual and programmatic factors associated with drug treatment outcomes. Inmates (n = 2,809) were in either a 12-month prison TC or a comparison group consisting of TC-eligible inmates who received only limited drug education or outpatient counseling. TC clients showed a significant 11% reduction in reincarceration after two years compared to the comparison group (Welsh, 2007). A related study examined whether treatment participation reduced inmate misconduct in prison (Welsh et al., 2007). Most recently, Dr. Welsh conducted a randomized experiment examining drug treatment programs at SCI-Chester, a PA facility specializing in AOD treatment. Consenting inmates (N=731) were randomly assigned to 12-month TC or 12-month outpatient treatment. Upon release to the community, inmates were required to participate in six months of outpatient aftercare. TC participation was associated with improved responsiveness to treatment (Welsh, 2006; Welsh and McGrain, 2008), and a three-year followup study of recidivism and drug relapse is currently underway.

Related faculty

Wayne Welsh


Selected publications

Welsh, WN. and Zajac, G. (2004) Building an effective research partnership between a university and a state correctional agency: Assessment of drug treatment in Pennsylvania prisons. The Prison Journal 84:1-28.

Welsh, WN. and Zajac, G. (2004). A census of prison-based drug treatment programs: Implications for programming, policy and evaluation. Crime and Delinquency 50:108-133.

Welsh, WN., McGrain, P., Salamatin, N. & Zajac, G. (2007) Effects of prison drug treatment on inmate misconduct: A repeated measures analysis. Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 34: 600-615.

Welsh, WN. (2007) A multi-site evaluation of prison-based TC drug treatment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, Volume 34: 1481-1498.