The costs of crime and the benefits of substance abuse treatment for pregnant women

Marilyn Daley, Milton Argeriou, Dennis McCarty, James J. Callahan, Donald S. Shepard, Carol N. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Although many pregnant, drug-dependent women report extensive criminal justice involvement, few studies have examined reductions in crime as an outcome of substance abuse treatment programs for pregnant women. This is unfortunate, because maternal criminal involvement can have serious health and cost implications for the unborn child, the mother and society. Using the Addiction Severity Index, differences in pre- and posttreatment criminal involvement were measured for a sample of 439 pregnant women who entered publicly funded treatment programs in Massachusetts between 1992 and 1997. Accepted cost of illness methods were supplemented with information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics to estimate the costs and benefits of five treatment modalities: detoxification only (used as a minimal treatment comparison group), methadone only, residential only, outpatient only, and residential/outpatient combined. Projected to a year, the net benefits (avoided costs of crime net of treatment costs) ranged from US$32,772 for residential only to US$3,072 for detoxification. Although all five modalities paid for themselves by reducing criminal activities, multivariate regressions controlling for baseline differences between the groups showed that reductions in crime and related costs were significantly greater for women in the two residential programs. The study provides economic justification for the continuation and possible expansion of residential substance abuse treatment programs for criminally involved pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-458
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Crime
  • Drug treatment
  • Pregnant women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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