NDARC Technical Report No. 259 (2006)
The primary purpose of this review was to identify and describe systematic outcome studies that have evaluated the efficacy of diversion and aftercare schemes for adult drug-involved offenders, in order to provide an objective context for considering the likely value of implementing and evaluating an aftercare component to existing diversion programs, such as the New South Wales’ Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) scheme.
Major methodological issues in existing studies are:
There are relatively few systematic evaluations, particularly within the literature on aftercare for drug-related offenders.
The majority of studies were non-randomised evaluations.
Few studies reported long-term outcomes following treatment.
Specific detail was lacking in descriptions of eligibility criteria, sample characteristics, data sources, outcome measures and follow-up time-frames.
Major outcome findings were:
There is tentative support for the efficacy of diversion and aftercare schemes for reductions in drug use and recidivism among offenders.
Aspects of good practice include adequate client monitoring, clearly structured programs, inclusion of a variety of services in addition to drug use programs, providing clients with limited options for aftercare from which they can select their preferred model, and tailoring model types to specific clients.
Given the major findings of this review and the relative recency of diversion programs, there is clear scope for persisting with them, devising a best practice aftercare program and conducting a more methodologically rigorous evaluation trial than has been reported to date. Practical recommendations are provided for how this potential might be realised, within the context of the existing MERIT program in NSW.
Citation: Harvey, E., Shakeshaft, A., Hetherington, K., Sannibale, C. and Mattick, R. (2006) Methodological review: Outcome studies of diversion and aftercare programs for adult drug-involved offenders, Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.