Psychology from the Margins


The United States criminal justice system’s (CJS) primary purpose is for the rehabilitation of the individuals within it, which calls for a comprehensive evaluation and critique of its effectiveness. Though there are many variables of the CJS that can be evaluated, for those who are battling a substance or opioid use disorder, accessing treatment is particularly difficult. Further, upon release from the jail/prison system, such persons are often expected to maintain certain parameters such as holding a job. The complex interaction between all three of these variables (incarceration history, substance use history, and employment status) have not yet been evaluated together. A review of the extant literature on vocational outcomes as they relate to substance use treatments in prison clearly shows the limited success of these treatments for participants post-release. Such findings create curiosity about what might be missing in these substance use treatments, especially as they relate to employment.

The purpose of the present manuscript is to investigate how these ideas have been historically documented and measured and subsequently to suggest a way in which to enhance the limited success of substance use treatments in the CJS. Vocational success is an outcome measure that takes into account, not only, traditional objective standards such as whether or not a person is employed, hours worked, etc., but also more subjective standards such as meaning- making in work which has not previously been included in prison-based substance use treatments. Such inclusion may increase vocational success and may lead to overall more positive recovery for individuals post-release. Future research recommendations are discussed.



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