Certifying Prisoners as Drug Counselors

It is estimated that about 70 percent of the U.S. prison population committed a drug- or alcohol-related crime. California's San Quentin State Prison is part...
by | April 23, 2008

It is estimated that about 70 percent of the U.S. prison population committed a drug- or alcohol-related crime. California's San Quentin State Prison is part of a unique and innovative response that aims not only to reduce drug-related crimes, but to reduce in-prison drug and alcohol abuse, the significant costs of prison addiction treatment programs and recidivism. A first-of-its-kind program, Addiction Counselors Training turns prisoners into certified drug and alcohol counselors. The 18-month curriculum of intensive classes and a 4,000-hour internship within the prison are led and overseen by volunteer treatment professionals and professors. These classes ready the trainees for certification by the California Association of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counselors, a well known and highly respected certifying organization. Upon certification, ACT inmate counselors receive job placement counseling and referrals for employment in the addictions treatment field when they leave San Quentin. In June 2007, nine out of 11 men from the first group passed the CAADAC test, a much higher percentage than the national rate. There is a waiting list for the next ACT training, which has been temporarily postponed until classroom space and funding is secured. ACT is operated by the nonprofit Full Circle Addiction Recovery Services, which plans to expand the program statewide.