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Implementation and evaluation of the Breaking Free Online and Pillars of Recovery treatment programs for substance-involved offenders


In 2013, Breaking Free Group, a digital healthcare company based in Manchester, developed two accredited substance misuse treatment and recovery programmes for offenders within the criminal justice system. Based on community-setting versions of Breaking Free Online (BFO), a computer-assisted therapy (CAT) programme, and Pillars of Recovery (PoR), a group-work programme, the criminal justice specific versions have subsequently been made available across 10 North-West England ‘Gateways’ prisons, as part of a ‘through the gate’ (TTG) pathfinder to support substance-involved offenders in successfully transitioning back to the community. The BFO programme has been made available to prisoners in the North-West via Virtual Campus (VC), a secure, web-based learning environment available across all English and Welsh prisons, where online education and training programmes are provided to prisoners, meaning prisoners can now continue to access their treatment when transferred to any prison with VC in England and Wales along with the ability to continue their care upon release. Since the pathfinder started both programmes have since achieved full CSAAP (Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel) accreditation. To further strengthen the impact upon desistance the developers of the programme worked with OCR (Oxford Cambridge universities and Royal Society of the Arts) awarding body to have the intervention programmes accredited and regulated, meaning offenders can also achieve a qualification in Life and Living Skills (Entry Level) as a means to acknowledge and reward their efforts in engaging, and completing the programme. By being made available on VC, BFO has become the first accredited healthcare and offending interventions programme to be delivered to prisoners via online, digital technology. Evaluation work, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative methods, has revealed both the barriers to, and facilitators of, the implementation of both BFO and PoR, and demonstrated initial clinical outcomes to be promising. This paper reports on the process of implementation of BFO and PoR, the role of the programmes within the wider Gateways project, and outcomes for offenders from engaging with the programmes. Future work is also described, both in relation to continued research and evaluation work, and the further implementation of BFO and PoR across both the England and Wales prison estate and the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).


(2017). Implementation and evaluation of the Breaking Free Online and Pillars of Recovery treatment programs for substance-involved offenders

Acceptance Date May 24, 2017
Publication Date May 24, 2017
Journal Advancing Corrections
Pages 95 - 113
Publisher URL


BFO Gateways paper - Final version for submission 03.02.17.docx (92 Kb)

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