Transforming prisons and improving health outcomes for people who use drugs: An evaluation of BC’s prison-based therapeutic community

People with substance use disorders (SUD) are more likely than those without SUD to be sent to prison and to experience negative outcomes after release. Prisons are not typically ideal environments to treat complex health issues including SUD. Therapeutic communities (TCs) offer an alternative to traditional forms of punishment, providing the environment for belonging and relationship-building, through activities such as group-based therapy, education/work, and community participation. The proposed study will evaluate Guthrie House, BC’s first and only prison-based TC which opened in 2007 at Nanaimo Correctional Centre. The study aims to identify the TC-related mechanisms of change associated with health and criminal justice outcomes, and will involve three main components: a survey with TC clients, interviews with TC and correctional staff, and linked administrative data analyses. This study has the potential to identify promising approaches to supporting people with SUD who experience incarceration. This work will add meaningfully to the policy initiatives in BC focused on reducing overdose and increasing access to SUD care.