Health Behaviors Tobacco Use Diet & Exercise Alcohol & Drug Use Sexual Activity Search Policies & Programs

hints
Display All Policies & Programs

Drug courts

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use Community Safety
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 1-9% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

Is this program or policy in use in your community? Tell us about it.

Description

Drug courts are specialized courts that offer criminal offenders with drug dependency problems an alternative to adjudication or incarceration. These courts intensively supervise offenders, require drug testing and treatment (US GAO-Maurer 2011), and impose graduated sanctions for failed drug tests or program non-compliance (Messina 2012). Drug courts can specialize in subpopulations such as juvenile offenders or adults charged with drunk driving (Campbell-Mitchell 2012).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced recidivism
Reduced drug use
Reduced incarceration

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that drug courts reduce general and drug-related recidivism among adults (Campbell-Mitchell 2012, Shaffer 2011, Cheesman 2016, Bruns 2012). Evidence is slightly stronger for general adult drug courts than for courts that specialize in drunk driving offenses (Campbell-Mitchell 2012). Juvenile drug courts appear less effective than adult drug courts; additional evidence is needed to confirm effects on participating youth (Stein 2015, Sullivan 2016, Campbell-Mitchell 2012).

Drug court participation can reduce recidivism among high-risk substance abuse offenders more than probation (Koetzle 2015). Generally, adult offenders who graduate from drug court face little incarceration, while those who do not graduate face longer sentences than their counterparts in traditional court (Rempel 2012).

Adult drug courts that can dismiss or expunge charges upon graduation appear more effective than those that cannot (Campbell-Mitchell 2012). Research suggests that a number of other program characteristics are associated with better outcomes, such as: limiting participation to nonviolent offenders, having longer treatment periods, conducting weekly staff meetings, or requiring restitution but not fines, community service, or Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous attendance (Shaffer 2011).

Juvenile drug courts appear to benefit program graduates the most; offenders who graduate from juvenile drug court are substantially less likely to re-offend than offenders who participate, but do not complete drug court programs (Stein 2013). Participants with a greater number of offenses and antisocial attitudes are more likely to reoffend than participants with fewer offenses (Konecky 2016). Minorities, boys, and offenders with histories of delinquency, emotional and behavioral problems (Stein 2013), or caregivers who use drugs appear least likely to graduate from juvenile drug court (Halliday-Boykins 2010). Overall, juvenile courts that admit participants promptly and courts that build academic or job skills appear to have higher graduation rates than courts that do not (Stein 2013).

A Washington-based analysis estimates that drug courts cost about $3,226 per participant in 2016, with a benefit to cost ratio of $1.53 (WSIPP-Benefit cost).

Implementation

United States

As of December 2014, over 3,000 drug courts were operating throughout the United States. More than half of these target adult offenders; the rest target DUI or juvenile offenders, families in the child welfare system, and other special populations (US NIJ-Drug courts). Drug courts also operate in other nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia (Campbell-Mitchell 2012).

Wisconsin

There are 53 “problem-solving courts” in Wisconsin, which include 29 adult drug courts and 2 juvenile drug courts (WI Court system-Problem solving courts). Wisconsin also funds a Treatment Alternatives and Diversion grant program for counties (WI Court system-TAD program). The Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals provides training, resources, and standards for staff in adult, juvenile, and family treatment drug courts (WATCP).

Implementation Resources

NCJRS-Drug courts - National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). Drug courts. Accessed on October 20, 2016
NDCI - National Drug Court Institute (NDCI). Accessed on October 20, 2016
US NIJ-Drug courts - US National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Drug courts. Accessed on October 20, 2016

Citations - Description

Campbell-Mitchell 2012 - Mitchell O, Wilson D, Eggers A, MacKenzie DL. Drug courts' effects on criminal offending for juveniles and adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2012:4. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Messina 2012* - Messina N, Calhoun S, Warda U. Gender-responsive drug court treatment: A randomized controlled trial. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 2012;39(12):1539-58. Accessed on October 20, 2016
US GAO-Maurer 2011 - Maurer DC. Studies show courts reduce recidivism, but DOJ could enhance future performance measure revision efforts. Washington, DC: US Government Accountability Office (US GAO); 2011: GAO-12-53 Accessed on February 27, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Bruns 2012* - Bruns EJ, Pullman MD, Weathers ES, Wirschem ML, Murphy JK. Effects of a multidisciplinary family treatment drug court on child and family outcomes: Results of a quasi-experimental study. Child Maltreatment. 2012;17(3):218-30. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Campbell-Mitchell 2012 - Mitchell O, Wilson D, Eggers A, MacKenzie DL. Drug courts' effects on criminal offending for juveniles and adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2012:4. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Cheesman 2016* - Cheesman FL, Graves SE, Holt K, Kunkel TL, Lee CG, White MT. Drug court effectiveness and efficiency: Findings for Virginia. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 2016;34(2):143-169. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Halliday-Boykins 2010 - Halliday-Boykins CA, Schaeffer CM, Henggeler SW, et al. Predicting non-response to juvenile drug court interventions. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2010;39(4):318-28. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Koetzle 2015* - Koetzle D, Listwan SJ, Guastaferro WP, Kobus K. Treating high-risk offenders in the community: The potential of drug courts. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 2015;59(5):449-465. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Konecky 2016* - Konecky B, Cellucci T, Mochrie K. Predictors of program failure in a juvenile drug court program. Addictive Behaviors. 2016;59:80-83. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Rempel 2012* - Rempel M, Green M, Kralstein D. The impact of adult drug courts on crime and incarceration: Findings from a multi-site quasi-experimental design. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2012;8(2):165-92. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Shaffer 2011* - Shaffer DK. Looking inside the black box of drug courts: A meta-analytic review. Justice Quarterly. 2011;28(3):493-521. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Stein 2013* - Stein DM, Deberard S, Homan K. Predicting success and failure in juvenile drug treatment court: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2013;44(2):159-68. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Stein 2015* - Stein DM, Homan KJ, DeBerard S. The effectiveness of juvenile treatment drug courts: A meta-analytic review of literature. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse. 2015;24(2):80-93. Accessed on October 20, 2016
Sullivan 2016* - Sullivan CJ, Blair L, Latessa EJ, Sullivan CC. Juvenile drug courts and recidivism: Results from a multisite outcome study. Justice Quarterly. 2016;33(2):291-318. Accessed on October 20, 2016
WSIPP-Benefit cost - Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP). Benefit-cost results. Accessed on September 28, 2017

Citations - Implementation

Campbell-Mitchell 2012 - Mitchell O, Wilson D, Eggers A, MacKenzie DL. Drug courts' effects on criminal offending for juveniles and adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2012:4. Accessed on October 20, 2016
US NIJ-Drug courts - US National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Drug courts. Accessed on October 20, 2016
WATCP - Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals (WATCP). Promoting treatment courts. Accessed on October 19, 2016
WI Court system-Problem solving courts - Wisconsin Court System. Problem-solving courts. Accessed on October 20, 2016
WI Court system-TAD program - Wisconsin Court System. Treatment alternatives and diversion (TAD) program. Accessed on October 20, 2016

Page Last Updated

October 19, 2016

* Journal subscription may be required for access.