Recently, there have been modern implantation into the legal process for mandating treatment. While research and alternatives to incarceration have shown promise, these alternative methods of diagnosis and treatment only go so far as to sustain lasting recovery. Among the obstacles presented by treatment approaches, costs, and sentencing is completion. Studies have shown that treatment greatly benefits from completion. The question now is between voluntary treatment and mandated treatment and whether mandated treatment offers you a better future by ensuring completion.

Opportunity for Treatment 

There is a clear link between crime and substance use. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over 50% of incarcerated individuals have a substance use disorder. Additionally, 36% of those will be arrested again within months of their release. Despite these concerns, many offenders are not offered treatment, and those receiving treatments often do not complete it. Why does this population fail to get and finish treatment? 

It is about opportunity and awareness for those incarcerated. Many people have come to believe that being in prison automatically equals being a criminal. However, this is not entirely true for those in prison or jail struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. Their behaviors are more complex than just choosing to do something unlawful—those incarcerated offer compelling stories of behavioral and mental illness disorders, addiction, and substance abuse.

Incarcerated individuals offer stories of past hardships. These stories can be both heart-wrenching and eye-opening to the public. It is not just the outside stigmas; it is the internal belief that prisoners condemn themselves as less than humans and therefore refuse to get help. However, more understanding from each side can bring legal balance by offering a more proactive approach to receiving treatment. 

Mandated Treatment

When treatment is not a choice, research has shown that inmates have less motivation to complete treatment, whereas internally motivated individuals want to change. This is not to suggest treatment fails for those who do not feel motivated—individuals undergoing mandated treatment show just as much progress therapeutically as those who voluntarily enter treatment. Mandated patients also show better outcomes in only one year than those willing to join voluntarily. 

Family Pressure

The pressures from families, friends, and employers have been shown to motivate and improve inmates’ completion rate. The inmate might feel compelled to comply and stick with treatment, knowing they have their family’s motivation behind them. The coercion of these factors, coupled with family influence, will lend more insight into whether this method has any real impact on a mass scale.


Another critical aspect of treatment completion rates varies by individual. However, it has been discovered that those that are self-sufficient have higher completion rates. This key variable is also related to having a better outside support system. Together, they are shown to garner better self-motivating traits in the individual than those who lack it, suggesting that perhaps self-motivation cannot be taught as easily. However, the mission is to instill such characteristics in the patient. 


Youth or those with less education tend to have lower success rates of completion. Additionally, these kinds of patients show more history of criminal activity and behavioral disorders than others. They also display traits of co-occurring conditions that need more centralized care and treatment alternatives. Exhibiting such behaviors as bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and other similar disorders make completion much harder to attain for these patients. 

Type of Drugs

Depending on the substance, there may be a varying chance of completion. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that heroin users are less likely to complete treatment. Cocaine and marijuana users have also been shown to be less motivated during treatment. Other substances, such as alcohol and certain medications, vary and are not as clear for predicting an outcome as other drugs. Seemingly, a more severe addiction with a more severe drug offers the least likely chance of completion. However, this does not mean that completion and sobriety cannot be attained. This research will help professionals re-assess their approach to finding more useful practices to treat patients with severe addictions and behavioral disorders. 


While there is much more research needed to raise completion rates, it will take a cumulative effort. Those incarcerated are human beings, too, and require understanding and sentencing that places rehabilitation before punishment. Some suggest getting some of those incarcerated away from prison life is the first step. For those who cannot quickly be released, the effort should reduce recidivism rates among repeat offenders. It will ultimately improve upon attaining the resources appropriate to treating mental, addiction, and behavioral disorders. Continuing research and achieving a goal of rehabilitating those incarcerated could provide growth in understanding human behavior and treatment that could translate to the masses and grow exponentially. While completion rates have not hit their desired mark, these efforts will improve with more understanding and research. 


If you or a family member are experiencing unfair treatment, you will want to educate yourself as much as possible to improve your or your loved one’s situation. Whether you seek treatment voluntarily or through a court-ordered mandate, you can get the help you need to overcome substance use disorder and mental health disorders. We at True Recovery view everyone who suffers from mental health disorders and substance use disorder equally and with respect and compassion. Our mission is to bring understanding, awareness, and relief to those suffering. We provide 24/7 care with inpatient, outpatient, and Telehealth options for those who need help now. We have professional and caring staff at our Court Services that are determined to help you attain the rights and recovery journey that is best for you. Don’t wait to get help. Help is here. To learn more, call True Recovery today at (866) 399-6528.