n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Creating therapeutic communities for the treatment of substance-dependent offenders within South African correctional centres : a lesson from Sheridan Correctional Centre, Illinois, USA

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Many practical difficulties present themselves in the treatment or management of the drug offender in a correctional setting and even more so in a South African Correctional Centre. For many drug offenders, prison is an alien and confusing environment which makes the treatment of their drug dependency all the more difficult, they do not necessarily select to be in the correctional environment, it is difficult to involve the individual in treatment, and correctional official or social workers find it difficult to handle and treat this category of inmate. Many criminal justice systems worldwide have given up on the rehabilitation of inmates as a result of the belief that 'nothing works'. However, after the success of the Sheridan studies preliminary findings document the fact is that 'treatment works.' According to Olson, Rapp, Powers and Karr (2006) as the Sheridan programme reaches capacity and as participants are released in larger numbers to the community, the challenges are the co-ordination and balance of participant needs, reintegration into the community and public safety concerns. A further aspect that exacerbates the treatment of this category of offender is that therapeutic efforts need to target not one but two problems that need to be addressed and dealt with, namely the offender's drug abuse and criminality. Therefore it is necessary to address this multidimensional problem from a therapeutic perspective and any initiatives must be based upon cognitive restructuring of the thought processes of the drug offender. In September 2011 the researcher visited the Sheridan Correctional Centre where the administration process of the facility was assessed, and the researcher joined the therapeutic sessions and participated therein. This paper examines the obstacles faced by the South African Department of Correctional Services when dealing with incarcerated drug-dependent offenders and draws upon the lessons from Sheridan's therapeutic community setting and cognitive restructuring programmes as a possible solution. It also provides protocols for the handling of drug offenders in correctional facilities based upon the latter philosophy.

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