Amity Prison Therapeutic Community

Updated: Nov 20, 2017
Evidence Rating:
Suggestive Tier


  • Program:

    An in-prison therapeutic community that provides counseling/decision-making skills to inmates with drug problems, to prepare them for re-entry into the community.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    A single randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a sample of 715 male inmates.

  • Key Findings:

    Randomized controlled trial shows a reduction in reincarceration rate and an increase in average time to reincarceration over the five years after inmates’ release from prison.

Located at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, the Amity Prison Therapeutic Community is a separate in-prison housing unit for male inmates with drug problems who are 9 to 12 months from being released, and who volunteer to participate in the program. The Community houses approximately 200 inmates, and provides them with counseling and instruction to help them stay off of drugs and succeed outside of prison (e.g., teaching decision-making skills, self-discipline, and respect for authority). These services are provided four hours per day during weekdays.

The Community is staffed by highly-committed persons who are recovering substance abusers with criminal histories, and serve as role models for the inmates. They are specially trained and supervised, and are available to counsel the inmates 24 hours a day. Prior to the inmates’ release, the staff work with them to develop a plan for life outside of prison.

For up to one year after the inmates’ release, they have the option to participate in a community-based therapeutic community called Vista, which provides similar services to the in-prison community and houses up to 40 residents at a time. All Amity graduates are encouraged to participate in support groups (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous) and use other community services as needed.

The program costs approximately $7,582 (in 2017 dollars) per inmate (averaging those who complete all treatment and those who do not).

Click here for Amity’s website.

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Prendergast, Michael L., Elizabeth A. Hall, Harry K. Wexler, Gerald Melnick, and Yan Cao. ͞Amity Prison-Based Therapeutic Community: 5-Year Outcomes. The Prison Journal, Vol. 84, No. 1, March 2004, pp. 36-60.

UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. ͞Amity Prison-Based Therapeutic Community: 5-Year Outcomes.͟ A presentation to the California Association of Criminal Justice Research, March 17, 2005.