Drug Courts Seen as Effective Intervention

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Drug Courts Seen as Effective Intervention

As the issue of mass incarceration has slowly grown more visible in state and national policy circles, especially due to high numbers of drug offenders being imprisoned, alternatives to traditional forms of punishment have begun to arise. Drug courts are one such alternative.

  • Drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems.[1]
  • As of December 2014, there are nearly 3,000 drug courts nationwide, with over half devoted to adults. Other targeted classes include juveniles, veterans, and Native Americans.[2]
  • Since the first drug court was established in 1989 in Miami-Dade County, every state and U.S. territory has at least one drug court with dozens more functioning in tribal locations all across the country.[3]
  • Drug courts primarily operate at the local level to divert non-violent offenders from incarceration to supervised programs. Furthermore, drug courts connect treatment communities with provider organizations with the intent to address various participants’ needs, including education, housing, job training, and mental health referrals.[4]

Drug courts have yielded interesting social and economic results for not only its participants but also program administrators.   

  • A Department of Justice-funded survey in 2002 found that drug courts have a positive effect on recidivism. Nationally, 84% of drug court graduates were not re-arrested for a serious crime within a year of graduating and 72.5% within two years.[5]
  • Drug courts also have proven to be successful economically. A 2008 study by The Urban Institute found that for every $1 invested, drug courts return $2.21 in benefits to the criminal justice system. Extending the program to all at-risk arrestees (likely to be arrested multiple times) resulted in benefits of $3.36 for every $1 invested.[6]

The goals of drug courts are largely universal, and its ideal model requires separate key components working in concert in order to be successful. 

  • Despite variations in structure, scope, and targeted populations, drug courts share three primary characteristics: reduce recidivism, reduce substance abuse, and rehabilitation of participants.[7]
  • The ideal drug court model involves offender screening and risk/needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring/supervision via periodic drug testing, graduated punishments/incentives, and treatment/rehabilitation services.[8]
  • Drug courts are usually managed by a non-adversarial team including judges, lawyers (prosecution and defense), and social workers. No formal training is required for these individuals, but the National Drug Court Institute has created a multi-tiered training curriculum.[9]
  • As the number of drug courts continue to expand, adequate training is essential. The National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) is supported by several federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. The NDCI offers training materials and periodic publications including fact sheets and report cards.[10]

Drug Court Locations in the United States, as of June 2013

StateAdult Drug Courts
Alabama95
Alaska8
Arizona61
Arkansas61
California202
Colorado67
Connecticut3
Delaware14
District of Columbia3
Florida108
Georgia74
Guam4
Hawaii17
Idaho56
Illinois59
Indiana51
Iowa33
Kansas15
Kentucky95
Louisiana69
Maine9
Maryland43
Massachusetts15
Michigan105
Minnesota41
Mississippi37
Missouri121
Montana30
Nebraska24
Nevada39
New Hampshire8
New Jersey26
New Mexico49
New York155
North Carolina38
North Dakota11
Ohio89
Oklahoma74
Oregon57
Pennsylvania76
Puerto Rico11
Rhode Island10
South Carolina28
South Dakota6
Tennessee51
Texas137
Utah44
Vermont6
Virginia36
Virgina Islands0
Washington67
West Virginia36
Wisconsin54
Wyoming24

Source:  National Drug Court Institute 

                                           


[1] “Drug Courts.” National Institute of Justice. http://www.nij.gov/topics/courts/drug-courts/pages/welcome.aspx

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Drug Courts: A Smart Approach to Criminal Justice.”

[4] Drug Courts: A Smart Approach to Criminal Justice.” The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/Fact_Sheets/drug_courts_fact_sheet_5-31-11.pdf  

[5] “Recidivism Rates for Drug Court Graduates: Nationally Based Estimates.” U.S. Department of Justice. [2002]. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/201229.pdf (Quoted in “Drug Courts: A Smart Approach to Criminal Justice.”) 

[6] Bhati, Avinash Singh, Roman, John K., Chalfin, Aaron.  “To Treat or Not to Treat: Evidence on the Prospects of Expanding Treatment to Drugā€Involved Offenders.” The Urban Institute. [2008]. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/222908.pdf (Quoted in “Drug Courts: A Smart Approach to Criminal Justice.”) 

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Drug Courts.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Drug Courts: A Smart Approach to Criminal Justice.”