Research on Drug Courts: A Critical Review, 2001 Update | CASAColumbia

Research on Drug Courts: A Critical Review

Research on Drug Courts: A Critical Review

Published: June 2001

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By 2001, drug courts had become a key court-based intervention and treatment option for drug-involved offenders. Drug courts provide long-term court-supervised intervention and treatment to offenders whose crimes are linked to addiction or risky use involving alcohol and other drugs.


This was a critical review of 37 published and unpublished evaluations of drug courts (including 7 juvenile drug courts, 1 DUI court and 1 family drug court) produced between 1999 and April 2001.


The report documents that drug courts provide intensive, long-term intervention and treatment services to offenders with long histories of drug use and criminal justice contacts, previous treatment failures and high rates of health and social problems. Substance use and criminal activity are relatively reduced among participants in these programs. Program completion rates average 47%.


The existing body of drug court research indicates that these programs have the potential to engage many drug offenders in long-term treatment while minimizing threats to public safety. The report found that a fuller understanding of the impacts of drug courts in the context of the larger criminal justice system requires more research on the targeting, referral, screening and admission processes. It recommends that future research on drug courts examine the client, operational and treatment-delivery characteristics that affect outcomes, so that drug courts can maximize their impacts and cost-effectiveness, and the relative effectiveness of the various elements of the drug court model can be better understood.

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