About CDAS

CDAS was founded in 1991 by its former Director, James A. Inciardi, Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, fostered at the time by his twenty years of prior research with drug-involved populations in New York and Florida. His later research on HIV prevention and prescription drug abuse was acclaimed both nationally and internationally.

The establishment of CDAS occurred as an outgrowth of funding opportunities initiated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In an effort to develop innovative approaches in the treatment of drug abuse, NIDA established its R18 funding mechanism, an initiative that would support 10 large-scale projects across the nation at funding levels of up to $1 million per year for five years. Two of the ten projects were awarded to Professor Inciardi and the University of Delaware. These became the financial basis for the founding of CDAS. And, importantly, because a secondary purpose of the R18 projects was to create new drug abuse treatment slots, for several years in the early 1990s, CDAS was the largest provider of residential drug treatment services for offenders in the State of Delaware.

In 2008, the leadership of CDAS was divided into two Co-Directors, Professors Inciardi and Christy Visher. In 2009, after Inciardi's passing, Visher became the sole Director. Professor Visher came to the University of Delaware from the Urban Institute with 25 years of experience in policy research on crime and justice issues. Her research interests focus on criminal careers, criminal justice evaluation, communities and crime, violence, and substance abuse. She has published widely on crime and justice topics, including prisoner reentry, crime prevention strategies, the arrest process, youthful offending, incapacitation, and use of drug testing in the criminal justice system.

Previously, Dr. Visher was science advisor to the Director of the National Institute of Justice, the research agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. She began her professional career at the National Research Council, Committee on Law and Justice, as a postdoctoral fellow and later, research associate, with the Panel on Criminal Careers. Her research has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals including Criminology, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Law & Society Review, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, American Sociological Review, Social Problems, and Justice Quarterly.

Steven S. Martin, Associate Director of CDAS, became associated with CDAS in 1989 as a Scientist and participated in the establishment of the Center. He worked with Professor Inciardi in the development of the NIDA-funded research as well as generating his own portfolio of projects funded by state and federal sources. Martin was the Principal Investigator for a NIDA study of improving HIV interventions for Probationers and, among other projects, is currently developing a model continuum of HIV services for offenders in the State of Delaware.

Current UD Sociology and Criminal Justice faculty associates include Ronet Bachman, Lana Harrison and Cynthia Robbins. Former UD faculty members who received grants at the Center include Leon Pettiway, Frank Scarpitti, and Ramiro Martinez, and former staff scientists Anne Pottieger and Dorothy Lockwood.


CDAS Organization and Administration  

The Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies is administratively housed in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, with its main office located off-campus at 257 East Main Street in Newark.

Beginning in 2002, CDAS began participation in a major cooperative agreement among 10 universities and the National Institute on Drug Abuse: the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies project. In addition to other criminal justice research funded by the National Institute of Justice, CDAS is the administrative home for numerous epidemiological and prevention studies related to the state of Delaware. In addition to Visher and Martin, three senior staff develop and direct CDAS projects. CDAS Scientist Daniel J. O'Connell (Ph.D. in Sociology, UD) and Research Associate Sami Abdel-Salam (Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, Temple University) are involved with the NIDA and NIJ projects and Roberta Gealt (M.A. in Educational Studies, UD) heads the field work on many of the state projects.

Each year, CDAS provides funding for a number of M.A. and Ph.D. students from UD’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. These students are assigned to a specific research project under the direction of a senior staff member. Depending on their experience, graduate students are given a great deal of responsibility on CDAS projects, and participate in proposal and project development, quantitative and qualitative data collection, data analysis and publication preparation. CDAS Research Assistants frequently co-author publications with CDAS Scientists.

Prior to April 2011, CDAS operations included a research office in South Florida, under the direction of Dr. Steven Kurtz and Dr. Hilary Surratt. Their portfolio has focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention for underserved and hard-to-reach populations, abuse and diversion of prescription drugs, and sexual risk behaviors for vulnerable populations. Although several of these projects are continuing, project information on the South Florida portfolio is available under Past Projects. Drs. Kurtz and Surratt are now affiliated with Nova Southeastern University, Division of Applied Interdisciplinary Studies and can be contacted directly at 305-529-1911.


CDAS Accomplishments and Mission

Since the University of Delaware’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies was established in 1991, it has made significant contributions to both the scientific and policy communities. One of the first achievements was the development of the well-known KEY therapeutic community drug treatment program at the Multi-Purpose Criminal Justice Facility in Wilmington, Delaware. From a small 20-bed program, it has expanded to almost 400 beds statewide in three institutions. This was followed by the establishment of the CREST Outreach Center, the world’s first therapeutic community in a corrections-based work release setting. CREST started with 60 beds and is now over 400 beds.  

The KEY-CREST corrections-based treatment continuum established by CDAS investigators turned out to be a major scientific, human services, public relations, and technology transfer success for the University of Delaware. Overall, the KEY-CREST initiative resulted in the production of more than 200 papers, books, and presentations; it was highlighted in meetings organized by NIDA, the National Institute of Justice, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; the National Institutes of Health produced and distributed videos on the CREST Outreach Center work release TC; the successes of the programs were topics of discussion in numerous Congressional hearings; the KEY and CREST were cited as model programs by President Clinton on several occasions; they were featured on national news programs; and outcome data were used as support for the enabling legislation for the Department of Justice’s Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program initiatives.

Furthermore, literally thousands of visitors have toured the programs, particularly the KEY, because it was such an oasis in the walled fortress of concrete and steel in which it was housed. In fact, the requests to tour the KEY program were so numerous that they had to be limited so the program could effectively function as a therapeutic community. Visitors included treatment professionals, correctional administrators and researchers from all over the United States; there were directors and staff from numerous federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and also coming to see the KEY were governors, legislators, Drug Czars, and members of the U.S. Congress. Visitors came from more than thirty nations on five continents; they came from countries both large and small – from Australia and Brazil to Sri Lanka and the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. What they saw at the KEY was a dynamic prison treatment program, a beehive of activity in which the community of drug-involved offenders were actively working on their recovery; and they experienced a total treatment environment whose history, organization, philosophy, and therapeutic principles were displayed on program walls, painted by resident artists. The lessons learned by many of the visitors were brought back to their home communities, and the program model was adopted in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Panama, Romania, Spain, Thailand, and the Philippines.

CDAS accomplishments have gone well beyond criminal justice studies to include such areas as youth drug use, substance abuse prevention, health consequences of drug abuse, and the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. On this latter topic, CDAS research has become instrumental in the development and implementation of the  post-marketing surveillance and risk management programs mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. A major thrust of CDAS’s initiatives has, and continues to be, the design of research programs aimed at reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS in underserved and hard-to-reach populations. Projects and target populations have ranged from probationers and prison inmates in Delaware and New Jersey to sex workers and gay and bisexual men in Miami, drug-involved Caribbean Islanders, and a variety of indigent populations in Brazil. Significant in this regard was the development and field testing of an HIV prevention model that was adopted by the Brazilian Ministry of Health for drug-using populations.

Closer to home in Delaware, Martin, Gealt and others at CDAS have been developing a broader portfolio of grant and contract work with the State of Delaware. Initially, this involved conducting the Delaware School Surveys of 5th, 8th, and 11th graders and the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS) in Delaware. This annual survey work is an ongoing Center function. The work in support of the State of Delaware has subsequently expanded to a number of program evaluation studies of state prevention and treatment efforts and recently has led to the formation of the Delaware State Epidemiological Workgroup for assessment of substance abuse epidemiological and etiological data from all sources in the state of Delaware.

And finally, even closer to home have been the Center’s efforts with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to address binge drinking at UD (1998-2004) and now with the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment-funded MOSAIC program to provide outreach and services to US students with alcohol and other substance abuse problems.

Looking toward the future, we are continually seeking to increase our interaction with other researchers, policy makers, and community representatives. One of the mechanisms to accomplish this is our continued involvement in cross-site studies with other institutions. In addition, each year CDAS sponsors an innovative conference on a focused area of research. In Delaware, we are expanding services to the state with new and larger youth surveys, program evaluations, work on state committees, the creation of a State Epidemiological Outcome Workgroup, and a new joint initiative with Nemours. Our future work will continue with all of these activities in our attempts to reduce the problems associated with substance abuse and infectious diseases.