It is well established that substance abuse treatment in the criminal justice system is effective at reducing drug use and related criminal behavior. Although drug and alcohol treatment are common mandates in criminal justice programs, only a minority of clients actually initiate treatment. This application will compare two intervention formats that target motivation to initiate and engage in substance abuse treatment among a group of probationers who have drug or alcohol treatment conditions. Six hundred drug and alcohol offenders in two probation sites (Baltimore, Maryland, and Dallas, Texas) will be randomized to receive: 1) an in-person motivational interviewing session (MI), 2) a motivational computer program (MC), or 3) intake and monitoring supervision as usual (SAU). The MI condition will be structured along the lines of the promising Check-Up format, which consists of an assessment and personalized feedback delivered in an MI style; the content of the MC condition will be drawn from previous literature on effective motivational computer programs. In addition, because of the much higher rates of infectious disease among criminal justice populations and the link between drug use and infectious disease, the MI and MC conditions would include a referral to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment for those participants who qualify. Both interventions will be delivered at the start of the probation process, with follow-up assessments at one, six, and twelve months. Primary outcomes include engagement and participation in substance abuse treatment; secondary outcomes include drug and alcohol use, probation progress, HIV testing and treatment, and criminal behavior. This project will be the first to develop and test two interventions for encouraging criminal justice clients to follow through with treatment recommendations, with the goal of increasing treatment initiation and reducing subsequent drug use and related risky behavior. It also contributes to ongoing partnerships with two large probation agencies -- the Dallas County Supervision and Corrections Department and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.

Public Health Relevance

Despite being a common mandate of criminal justice sentencing, only a minority of probationers with drug treatment orders actually complete substance abuse treatment. Substance abusers also have higher rates of incidence of HIV/AIDS, yet few seek testing or care. This project will compare an in-person motivational interview, a motivational computer program, or supervision as usual, in order to increase the number of probationers who follow through with substance abuse treatment mandates and/or receive HIV testing and treatment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Risk, Prevention and Intervention for Addictions Study Section (RPIA)
Program Officer
Duffy, Sarah Q
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Texas
Social Sciences
Schools of Public Health
Fort Worth
United States
Zip Code
Reingle Gonzalez, Jennifer M; Walters, Scott T; Lerch, Jennifer et al. (2018) Gender differences in substance use treatment and substance use among adults on probation. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 44:480-487
Cowell, Alexander J; Zarkin, Gary A; Wedehase, Brendan J et al. (2018) Cost and cost-effectiveness of computerized vs. in-person motivational interventions in the criminal justice system. J Subst Abuse Treat 87:42-49
Rodriguez, Mayra; Walters, Scott T; Houck, Jon M et al. (2018) The language of change among criminal justice clients: Counselor language, client language, and client substance use outcomes. J Clin Psychol 74:626-636
Rossheim, Matthew E; Livingston, Melvin D; Lerch, Jennifer A et al. (2018) Serious mental illness and negative substance use consequences among adults on probation. Health Justice 6:6
Lerch, Jennifer; Walters, Scott T; Tang, Liansheng et al. (2017) Effectiveness of a computerized motivational intervention on treatment initiation and substance use: Results from a randomized trial. J Subst Abuse Treat 80:59-66
Spohr, Stephanie A; Taxman, Faye S; Walters, Scott T (2017) People's reasons for wanting to complete probation: Use and predictive validity in an e-health intervention. Eval Program Plann 61:144-149
Spohr, Stephanie A; Suzuki, Sumihiro; Marshall, Brittany et al. (2016) Social support quality and availability affects risk behaviors in offenders. Health Justice 4:2
Altice, Frederick L; Azbel, Lyuba; Stone, Jack et al. (2016) The perfect storm: incarceration and the high-risk environment perpetuating transmission of HIV, hepatitis C virus, and tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Lancet 388:1228-48
Spohr, Stephanie A; Taxman, Faye S; Rodriguez, Mayra et al. (2016) Motivational Interviewing Fidelity in a Community Corrections Setting: Treatment Initiation and Subsequent Drug Use. J Subst Abuse Treat 65:20-5
Reingle Gonzalez, Jennifer M; Walters, Scott T; Lerch, Jennifer et al. (2015) The Relationship Between Drug Use, Drug-related Arrests, and Chronic Pain Among Adults on Probation. J Subst Abuse Treat 53:33-8

Showing the most recent 10 out of 13 publications