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Importance of Therapeutic Communities

Research evidence indicates that therapeutic communities should be the intervention of choice for drug dependent offenders. According to Bennett (2006), therapeutic community models are based on the premise that inmates with long histories of drug dependence need to restructure their attitudes and way of thinking and to minimize the influences of the lifestyles condoning violence, irresponsibility that are found in the typical prison environment. Reamer (2005) noted that the typical therapeutic community in a prison isolates the offender from the rest of the inmate population, which ideally increases group pressure to take the program seriously. It also minimizes the likelihood of negative influence made by the inmates in the general prison population (Reamer, 2005). Some offenders may benefit from diversion into treatment, but others require intensive monitoring through frequent drug testing (Vining, 2009).

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Therapeutic communities are intensive treatment programs for prisoners with a history of severe drug dependence. They are often voluntary and separated from the general prison population (White & Graham, 2012). One element of its strength is that inmates, entering these units, are required to pledge to abstain from drug use in return for increased privileges, such as recreational facilities and improved accommodation (White & Graham, 2012). In addition, inmates are frequently urine tested and punishments for positive urinalysis include loss of privileges.

The modern therapeutic community rests on a foundation of secular ideology with certain existential assumptions which include self determination, individual responsibility, and self charge (Ries et.al, 2009). The therapeutic philosophy holds each individual fully responsible for his or her own behavior. Ries et.al (2009) noted that no matter what the genetic predisposition or environmental or family influences are, each person is seen as fully and completely responsible for his or her own behavior. Vining (2009) says that therapeutic communities control one’s motivation at the time of program entry and it uses matching strategies, based on the antecedent characteristics, such as criminal history and primary drug.

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Therapeutic community is a powerful tool for changing behavior. Therapeutic modality is effective in changing difficult behaviors for which so many methods are not successful (Ries et.al, 2009). Therapeutic oriented programs have their own identities and are housed in a space that is separated from other agency or units or from drug related environments. According to Ries et.al (2009), these are designed to help members gradually detach from old networks and relate to the drug-free peers in the program. The therapeutic environment prominently features command spaces and collective activities.

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The therapeutic philosophy holds that, to be effective, treatment and educational services must be provided within a context of the peer community (Ries et.al, 2009). This means that with the exception of individual counseling, all activities are programmed in collective formats. Therapeutic communities are difficult to implement and operate in a prison setting. Bennett (2006) says that therapeutic requires a considerable amount of commitment to the program on the part of prison administrators and staff. Also, a considerable amount of space within the prison needs to be allocated to provide therapeutic community recipients with housing, food service, and rooms to carry out group treatment sessions.

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