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Justice System Research Initiatives

Revised April 2017

Overview of Justice System Research Initiatives

NIDA funds a broad portfolio of research addressing drug abuse in the context of the justice system. Drug abuse and crime are highly correlated in both the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. Estimates suggest that adult offenders have rates of substance abuse and dependence that are more than four times that of the general population. In juvenile justice settings, it is estimated that 50-75% of juveniles were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their offense.  In addition a portfolio of independent research projects, NIDA has funded three major multisite initiatives to address the myriad issues at the intersection of the criminal justice system and substance use and abuse. These initiatives include:

  1. The Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS)
  2. Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS)
  3. Seek, Test, and Treat: Addressing HIV in the Criminal Justice System.

Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS)

JJTrials logo

NIDA’s  Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) is a multisite cooperative agreement that launched in 2013.  JJ-TRIALS is a seven-site cooperative research program designed to identify and test strategies for improving the delivery of evidence-based substance abuse and HIV prevention and treatment services for justice-involved youth. Virtually all justice-involved youth could benefit from HIV and substance abuse prevention and/or treatment interventions.  Many evidence-based interventions targeting adolescent substance abuse and HIV screening, assessment, prevention, and treatment currently exist. Unfortunately, implementation of these interventions within juvenile justice settings is variable, incomplete, and non-systematic at best.

The JJ-TRIALS cooperative is fielding three interrelated studies:

  1. A longitudinal, nationally representative survey of juvenile justice community supervision agencies about policies and practices related to substance use assessment and service delivery. National survey data was collected in 2014 and 2017. In addition to community supervision agencies, the national survey also collected supplemental data from the perspective of juvenile justice judges and behavioral health agencies that work with justice involved youth in the surveyed communities. Findings from the 2014 survey are expected to be published in late 2017 or early 2018.
  2. A 36-site cluster-randomized control trial (RCT) comparing different approaches to systems improvements efforts aimed at improving the identification of substance abuse service needs among justice involved youth and delivery of services to address those needs. Juvenile justice sites participating in this study partner with local behavioral health agencies to set tailored goals around how to reduce unmet needs for justice involved youth. This RCT is guided by an implementation science framework and will answer questions around which elements of an implementation interventions lead to the most changes in unmet service needs.
    • A publication describing the protocol in full can be found here (open access): Knight, D. K., Belenko, S., Wiley, T., Robertson, A. A., Arrigona, N., Dennis, M., Bartkowski, J. P., McReynolds, L. S., Becan, J. E., Knudsen, H. K., Wasserman, G. A., Rose, E., Diclimente, R. & Leukefeld, C. (2016). Juvenile Justice—Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS): a cluster randomized trial targeting system-wide improvement in substance use services. Implementation Science, 11(1), 57. doi:10.1186/s13012-016-0423-5
    • The concept of a behavioral health services cascade, which is the measurement framework for the study is described in the following publication: Belenko, S., Knight, D., Wasserman, G. A., Dennis, M. L., Wiley, T., Taxman, F. S., Oser, C., Dembo, R., Robertson, A. A., & Sales, J. The Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Services Cascade: A new framework for measuring unmet substance use treatment services needs among adolescent offenders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74, 80-91. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2016.12.012 
  3. A 6-site pilot trial examines the degree to which the model developed in the 36-site RCT can be adapted to meet unmet needs around STI/HIV risk behaviors and service needs for justice involved youth.

Seven research centers were funded as part of the JJ-TRIALS collaborative: Chestnut Health Systems (PIs: Michael Dennis and Christy Scott), Columbia University (PI: Gail Wasserman), Emory University (PIs: Ralph DiClemente and Gene Brody), Mississippi State University (PI: Angela Robertson), Temple University (PI: Steven Belenko), Texas Christian University (PI: Danica Knight), and the University of Kentucky (PI: Carl Leukefeld).

JJ Trials Map showing centers - read text for detailsJJ-TRIALS is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, located in Bethesda, MD. The seven research centers funded as part of the JJ-TRIALS collaborative include Chestnut Health Systems (located in Chicago, IL and Bloomington, IL), Columbia University (in New York City, NY), Emory University (in Atlanta, GA), Mississippi State University (in Missisippi State, MS), Temple University (in Philadelphia, PA), Texas Christian University (in Fort Worth, TX), and the University of Kentucky (in Lexington, KY). Sites that will participate in the JJ-TRIALS initiative are located in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.

Questions about JJ-TRIALS can be addressed to Tisha Wiley.

Overview of the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS) Phase I & II

CJ-DATS logo

CJ-DATS (the national Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies) was launched in 2002 and two initiatives (CJ-DATS-1 and CJ-DATS-2) were carried out from 2002 to 2014. The overarching goal of the CJ-DATS cooperative research programs was to improve both public health and public safety outcomes for substance abusing offenders leaving prison or jail and returning to the community by integrating substance abuse treatment into the criminal justice system.  At that time CJ-DATS-1 was launched, an estimated 600,000 inmates were released each year in the United States, with approximately two-thirds having substance abuse problems that, if left unaddressed, could increase the risk of relapse and recidivism to crime. 

The establishment of CJ-DATS is an outstanding example of cooperation among Federal agencies with the research community…We need to understand how to provide better drug treatment services for criminal justice offenders to alter their drug use and criminal behavior.” –Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA

CJ-DATS was designed to identify ways in which these offenders could benefit from the continuum of effective substance abuse treatment services. CJ-DATS tested several strategies for improving drug abuse treatment services through the coordination with criminal justice assessment, monitoring, and supervision activities. Further, the CJ-DATS initiatives were designed to inform the development of models for integrating evidence based substance abuse treatment with the criminal justice system.


Research Centers are located in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and ConnecticutCJ-DATS Phase II Research Centers and CJ Partner Sites

The second phase of CJ-DATS, engaging a new cohort of research centers and agency partners, was launched in 2008 with a focus on conducting implementation research in these criminal settings. Specifically, NIDA charged the cooperative with testing implementation strategies that could result in sustained uptake and delivery of services in three domains: (1) delivery of medication-assisted treatment for offenders transitioning to the community; (2) delivery of an HIV continuum of care (i.e., screening and counseling, risk reduction interventions, and continuity of antiretroviral treatment from prison or jail into the community); and (3) implementation of screening and assessment processes to identify offenders with drug abuse and related health problems and to inform their treatment planning and re-entry process.

In each domain, grantees were to focus on organizational and system-level implementation strategies, and to engage both community corrections and community-based treatment providers in a process that would leverage key facilitators, address barriers, and jointly address the public safety concerns of criminal justice agencies with the public health goals of the Institute and the community-based treatment partners. NIDA’s ultimate goal for CJ-DATS is to identify implementation strategies that maximize the likelihood of sustained delivery of evidence-based practices to improve offender drug abuse and HIV outcomes, and to decrease their risk of incarceration.


There were 9 CJ-DATS Phase I research centers, located in California, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, and VirginiaCJ-DATS Phase I Research Centers

From 2002 through 2008, CJ-DATS-1 researchers from 9 research centers, a coordinating center, and NIDA worked together with federal, state, and local criminal justice partners to develop and test integrated approaches to the treatment of offenders with drug use disorders.

Seek, Test, and Treat: Addressing HIV in the Criminal Justice System (STTR-CJ)

The Seek, Test, and Treat: Addressing HIV in the Criminal Justice System (STTR-CJ) funds twelve R01 applications that empirically test the “seek, test, treat, and retain” paradigm with drug abusers in criminal justice populations. Researchers are developing, implementing, and testing strategies to increase HIV testing and the provision of HAART to HIV seropositive individuals involved with the criminal justice system, with particular focus on continuity of HAART during and after community re-entry following incarceration.
For more information, see: Seek, Test, Treat and Retain




Related RFAs

This page was last updated April 2017