Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC)

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This is a program designed to divert drug-involved offenders into appropriate community-based treatment programs by linking the legal sanctions of the criminal-justice system to treatment for drug problems. The program now serves as a court diversion mechanism or as a supplement to probation or other justice-system sanctions and procedures. Created by President Richard M. Nixon's Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP) and funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), TASC was an attempt to find a way to break the relationship between drug use and crimes committed to support the cost of obtaining illegal drugs. The idea for the initial TASC programs derived from an analysis of the criminal-justice system indicating that many drug-addicted arrestees were released on bail while awaiting trial and were likely to continue to commit crimes. Although there were provisions for supervision of drug-dependent offenders after conviction (on probation) or after release from prison (pa-role), no such mechanisms were in place to provide supervision of those awaiting trial. Yet, if arrestees could be directed to treatment, success in treatment could be taken into consideration at time of trial.

The first TASC programs, in Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became operational in 1972. TASC currently operates in more than 100 jurisdictions in 28 of the U.S. states and territories. In the mid-1990s, TASC programs received support from the U.S. Department of Justice through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Criminal Justice Block Grants to state and local governments. LEAA was discontinued in 1982. Many TASC programs have expanded their base of support so that state and federal funding is supplemented by private donations and grants or client fees.

TASC programs initially focused on pretrial diversion of first offenders. The original TASC model was structured around three goals: (1) eliminating or reducing the drug use and criminal behavior of drug-using offenders; (2) shifting offenders from a system based on deterrence and punishment to one that, in addition, fostered treatment and rehabilitation; and (3) diverting drug-involved offenders to community-based facilities so as to limit criminal labeling and also to avoid the learning of criminal behavior that occurs in prisons. These goals were based on the assumption that treatment intervention had a better chance of success with first-offenders, since they had not yet been labeled as criminals. It also reflected community concerns that serious or dangerous offenders who might otherwise be incarcerated would instead be released. In practice, it turned out that most first-time drug arrests were not necessarily first arrests, so the program was quickly expanded to reach all drug-involved offenders that the courts were willing to divert into treatment.

TASC procedures determine a drug-dependent offender's eligibility for intervention, and they include assessment of the offender's risk to the community, severity of drug dependence, and appropriateness for treatment placement. After an individual is referred to a treatment program, TASC case-managment services monitor that individual's compliance with the conditions of the treatment and rehabilitation regime, including expectations for abstinence, employment, and improved personal and social functioning. Progress is reported to the referring justice-system agency. Clients who violate the conditions of their justice mandateTASC "contract" (or treatment agreement)are usually returned to the justice system, where the legal process interrupted by TASC diversion goes forward.

Specific "critical program elements" define the parameters of a well-described national TASC model. These have been carefully worked out by The National Consortium of TASC Programs (NCTP) (444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 642, Washington, DC 20001; Phone: 202/783-6868; FAX: 202/783-2704). These critical elements provide the structure for the linkages between the criminal-justice and treatment systems. This model makes it possible to easily replicate TASC programs anywhere in the United States, including urban, suburban or rural settings, and is easily adaptable to specific population needs. NCTP provides technical assistance for implementation of the model program, training for program development, systems coordination, program assessment, development and dissemination of materials (such as model policies, procedures, protocols, etc.), training in the use of the "critical elements," internships, and accreditation of TASC programs.

Many of the states have expanded the TASC model to provide a wide array of adjunct services to a wide variety of participants in TASC programs. Illinois TASC, for example, founded in 1976 by Melody Heaps, uses the name Treatment Alternatives for Special Clients (TASC, Inc.) in order to better describe the scope of its programs. The program provides case management and a comprehensive array of services throughout Illinois for men, women, and adolescents who have a variety of social, welfare, and health-related needs. Populations served include youth in the child-welfare system, AIDS-affected clients, DUI (drunk-driving) offenders, juvenile offenders, students, welfare recipients, offenders sentenced to home confinement, youth in community-based programs and those in the child-welfare system, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, pretrial arrestees, and Cook County Jail inmates. For each special population targeted and served, appropriate interventions and services have been devised, such as a school intervention program, a gang intervention program, and youth services for substance-abusing students and adolescents. Adult criminal-justice services include monitoring of offenders in home confinement using technologies such as electronic monitoring and drug testing; a jail project providing screening and assessment, orientation, intensive therapeutic-community counseling, transition counseling, and aftercare planning and management. Illinois TASC is the sole agency providing substance-abuse assessment and recommendations for the Illinois courts. As well as providing offender case-management services, it offers training for judges, state attorneys, public defenders, criminal-justice planners, and federal and state probation and parole staffs.

TASC programs play an important role in reducing the growing rates of drug-related street crime and alleviating court backlogs. They have been effective in identifying drug-involved offenders in need of treatment, assessing the nature and extent of their drug use and their specific treatment needs, and referring them to treatment. TASC clients have been found to remain in treatment longer and so have better posttreatment success. In addition, as an adjunct to parole and work release, the programs have the potential to help ease prison overcrowding. TASC also effectively fulfills its original purpose of linking the criminal-justice and treatment systems by providing client identification and monitoring services for the courts, probation departments, and other segments of the criminal-justice system.

(See also: California Civil Commitment Program ; Civil Commitment ; Coerced Treatment for Substance Offenders ; Crime and Drugs ; Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act )


Inciardi, J. A., & Mc Bride, D.C. (1991), Treatment alternatives to street crime: History, experiences, and issues. DHHS Publication no. (ADM) 91-1749. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Morgan, J. (1992). Treatment alternatives to street crime. State ADM Reports no. 15 (June), Intergovernmental Health Policy Project. Washington, DC: George Washington University.

Jerome H. Jaffe

Faith K. Jaffe

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Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC)

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Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC)