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Critical Evaluations

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1 January 2003
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Pursuant to the instructions of the Corrections Commission in its March 1980 meeting, the Program Bureau has completed a follow-up study of persons involved in the Narconon and RAP Programs who have completed at least six months in the community. The findings are as follows:

I. Narconon Cases

Narconon staff in Ionia provided the Program Bureau with a complete roster of more than 200 individuals who had entered their program since 1978. This roster indicated several levels or courses in that program; only individuals completing at least one course were included in this followup. Of these, we studied only those who had been referred to the community prior to September 1, 1979 so that at least six months of community experience would be available for study. There were 45 such individuals. Of these, two were excluded as having been paroled outstate and 14 as having no prior history of substance abuse indicated in their files, including the presentence report and Reception Center Information. This left 29 cases with at least six months In the community who had a prior history of substance abuse had completed at least one of the Narconon courses. The average period of time in the community for this group was 8.4 months. Their outcome is shown in the following table:


Courses Completed In Narconon
New Felony
4 (14%)
Technical Violation
5 (17%)
7 (24%)
Maintained Under Supervision
13 (45%)
29 (100%)

A few comments about this table:

Since all but a handful had completed two Narconon courses, no conclusions can be drawn as to differences relating to that variable.

The "new felony" cases include two already convicted of felonies and two where the evidence is clearly adequate to sustain conviction and trial is pending. It does not include cases which were returned as technical violators in lieu of prosecution and one case in which trial is pending but the evidence seems inconclusive. It also does not include one case on escape status following apparent felonious behavior.

"Technical violations" include returns from parole or community centers status for rule violations including substance abuse, new crimes, and misconduct.

"Abscond/escape" includes absconders from parole and escapees from community residential programs. Some of these have been returned to the institution and others are still at large.

"Maintained under supervision" indicates that the individual is still in community center status or on parole. In a few instances, this status has been continued despite misdemeanor convictions, substance abuse, or misconducts.

The agreement with Narconon staff was that if their graduates showed a record as least as good as would be expected for our population in general, we would continue to support their program for the remainder of the fiscal year (the assumption being that cases with substance abuse histories would do somewhat worse than average. barring favorable program impact which might bring it down to average or better) On the other hand if the follow-up gave indication that the program was having a negative affect, it would be terminated. If neither apparently helpful nor harmful, the program would be allowed to continue if that could be managed without state funding. The operative question, then, is how these findings speak to these issues.

On the first point, the graduates from the program clearly are not doing as well as the average prisoner going to the community. With only 45% maintaining successful community adjustment after a period of nine months, and the remainder having been returned to the institution or being on escape status, this conclusion is clear. It is not even necessary to adjust for the fact that parole or community center status is not complete for many of these individuals to determine that. Eighteen of the 29 persons in this group went directly to parole, and 11 went to community residential programs. The return rate from parole has varied between 28% and 40%, historically. Our return rate from corrections centers also runs 40% at its most unfavorable. The new felony rate for parole runs approximately 12%, and for the centers approximately 9%. In view of the fact that at least some of those so far maintained in the community among the group followed up here will undoubtedly be returned before completing supervision, we can only conclude that the answer to the first question is that graduates of the Narconon Program do not do as well as our population in general.

As to the second question, whether the program actually has a negative impact, this cannot be concluded from these data. We are, after all, dealing with a younger-than-average population group and one with a history of substance abuse. It would be expected to have a worse track record than the average parolee or corrections center referral. Furthermore, there is nothing in the nature of the Narconon Program which can be seen as criminogenic. The worst that can be said about the program, given that it has been cleared of the other charges which have been leveled against it, is that the optimism of its supporters in belief that it will produce significant behavioral change for the long run is not supported.

As a final note, the risk categories of the group followed here were examined, and appear to follow a normal distribution. Therefore, our conclusions would be that funding for the program stop, but that it be allowed to continue on a volunteer basis should that be feasible.

II. RAP Program Follow-Up

John Hand was contacted to obtain names of individuals meeting the same criteria as for Narconon - that is as having prior substance abuse history and being released to the community during the same period. Mr. Hand furnished a roster of individuals who had been involved in the group psychotherapy (no longer called RAP) program. He indicated, however, that very few of these had completed enough of the program to be assigned to it in terms of valid impact. He identified seven individuals who he thought might have sufficient program involvement to be counted. Therefore, we have limited our follow-up to those seven individuals even though this number is too small for any statistical inference.

Of these, four have been in the community at least six months. All four were paroled; three are making successful adjustment, and one has been convicted of a new felony. Mr. Hand did indicate that people are now being retained in the program for more significant exposure, so that a later follow-up might be possible. Meanwhile, I would conclude that no inferences can be drawn concerning this program.

III. Final Comments

Due to the necessity of reaching a policy decision on continuation of the Narconon Program, the above evaluation has necessarily been very cursory. It is accurate so far as it goes, but an adequate program evaluation would require an experimental control group design, statistical determinations as to the adequacy of matching between groups, and a much more elaborate study. We have taken every care possible to insure the accuracy of the data which is presented (calling parole officers to verify file information, for example), but no claim is made that this constitutes a complete program evaluation, which would obviously be much longer and more detailed.

Michigan Dept. of Corrections Program Bureau
April 7, 1980

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