3 Drug court

Drug court

Drug Courts are judicially supervised court dockets that handle the cases of nonviolent substance abusing offenders under the adult, juvenile, family and tribal justice systems. Drug Courts operate under a specialized model in which the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social service, and treatment communities work together to help non-violent offenders find restoration in recovery and become productive citizens. In the USA, there are currently over 2,459 Drug Courts representing all fifty states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and 111 tribal drug court programs.[1] In the UK, drug courts are currently being tested in various places.[2]


The Drug Court Model

Drug Courts operate under a very specific model that combines intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, escalating sanctions and treatment to help substance abusing offenders break the cycle of addiction and the crime that accompanies it. In 1997, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals published Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components designed to provide courts with a model which can be adapted to fit the specific needs of the community.

The 10 Key Components

  1. Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.
  2. Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety. Participants must waive their due process rights to a speedy trial and sign a pre-emptive confession before being allowed to participate.
  3. Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the Drug Court program.
  4. Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.
  5. Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
  6. A coordinated strategy governs Drug Court responses to participants compliance.
  7. Ongoing judicial interaction with each Drug Court participant is essential.
  8. Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
  9. Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective Drug Court planning, implementation, and operations.
  10. Forging partnerships among Drug Courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances Drug Court effectiveness.[3]

Drug Courts in the United States

The first Drug Court in the U.S. took shape in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 1989 as a response to the growing crack-cocaine problem plaguing the city. Chief Judge Gerald Wetherington, Judge Herbert Klein, then State Attorney Janet Reno and Public Defender Bennett Brummer designed the court for nonviolent offenders to receive treatment. This model of court system quickly became a popular method for dealing with an ever increasing number of drug offenders. Between 1984 and 1999, the number of defendants charged with a drug offense in the Federal courts increased 3% annually, from 11,854 to 29,306. By 1999 there were 472 Drug Courts in the nation and by 2005 that number had increased to 1262 with another 575 Drug Courts in the planning stages; currently all 50 states have working Drug Courts. There are currently about 120,000 people treated annually in Drug Courts, though an estimated 1.5 million eligible people are currently before the courts. There are currently more than 2,400 Drug Courts operating throughout the United States.

Recidivism rates

Recidivism rates for offenders who have graduated from Drug Courts have been consistently proven to be lower than recidivism rates of offenders who did not take part in a Drug Court program. The average recidivism rate for those who complete Drug Court is between 4% and 29%, in contrast to 48% for those who do not participate in a Drug Court program. A 2003 recidivism report by the Urban Institute and Caliber Associates, entitled, "Recidivism Rates For Drug Court Graduates: National Based Estimates", representative of over 17,000 annual Drug Court graduates nationwide, found that recidivism rates for Drug Court participants one year after graduation is a mere 16.5% and only 27.5% after two years. In a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 graduates from 95 different Drug Courts, the average re-arrest rate was only about 16% in the first year after leaving the program and 27% after the second year.[4] This compares highly favorably to typical recidivism rates on conventional probation, in which roughly 46% of offenders commit a new offense and over 60% commit a probation violation.[5] A recent study of nine courts in California found that re-arrest rates over a 4-year period were 29% for Drug Court participants (and only 17% for Drug Court graduates) as compared to 41% for similar drug offenders who did not participate in Drug Court.[6] Another study of four adult Drug Courts in Suffolk County, MA found that Drug Court participants were 13% less likely to be re-arrested, 34% less likely to be re-convicted and 24% less likely to be re-incarcerated than probationers who had been carefully matched to the Drug Court participants using “propensity score” analyses.[7]

Cost benefit

In line with their demonstrated effects on crime, Drug Courts have proven to be highly cost-effective. Several recent studies have computed the average cost savings per participant. Results revealed average cost savings ranging from nearly $3,000 to over $12,000 per client. Depending upon the size of a given Drug Court program, in some counties the aggregate cost savings exceeded $7 to $9 million per year.[8] There are about 120,000 individuals treated annually in Drug Courts, which creates more than $1 billion dollars in annual savings. Overall, it is estimated that the current adult Drug Court treatment program produces about $2.21 in benefit for every $1 in costs, for a net benefit to society of about $624 million. Studies have shown that 1.5 million arrestees who are probably guilty (the population most likely to participate in court monitored substance abuse treatment) are at risk of abuse or dependence. Treating that 1.5 million at-risk arrestees through drug court would cost more than $13.7 billion and return benefits of about $46 billion.[9]

Juvenile Drug Court

Drug Courts not only apply to adults but to juveniles as well. The need for a juvenile Drug Court can be indicated by the extent of a drug being associated with delinquency, the ability of the juvenile justice system to use treatment, supervision and other services, as the accountability that the juvenile and the service providers are given by the juvenile justice system.[10]


The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1994 to reduce the negative social impact of substance abuse, crime and recidivism. The NADCP advocates for the establishment, growth and funding of Drug Courts and provides for the collection and dissemination of information. In 1997 the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) was established by the Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of NADCP. NDCI is funded through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NDCI provides comprehensive Drug Court training series for practitioners, and disseminates important Drug Court specific research, evaluations and relevant commentary. NDCI stages over 130 training events each year.[1]

Drug Courts in Canada

Drug treatment courts (DTCs) are a recent phenomena in the Canadian criminal justice system. The first Canadian DTC commenced in Toronto in 1998. The Federal Government currently supports six DTCs in Canada including: Edmonton (December 2005), Winnipeg (January 2006), Ottawa (March 2006), Regina (October 2006), Toronto (1998), and Vancouver (2001). Calgary and Durham have also recently initiated DTCs.[11]

Drug Courts in the United Kingdom

In December 2005, the United Kingdom began a pilot scheme of dedicated Drug Courts.[12] Pilot Drug Courts are still in operation in various locations throughout the country.

See also


  1. ^ a b Huddleston, C. W. III., Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D., D., Casebolt, R. (2008, May). Painting the Current Picture: A National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Court Programs in the United States. Washington DC: National Drug Court Institute.
  2. ^ "DrugScope reporting on an example of two Scottish trials in Fife and Glasgow". DrugScope.org.uk. http://www.drugscope.org.uk/newsandevents/newsarchivepages/march2006/drug-courts-to-continue.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  3. ^ The National Association of Drug Court Professionals Drug Court Standards Committee. (1997, January). Defining Drug Courts: Ten Key Components. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs.
  4. ^ Roman, J., Townsend, W., & Bhati, A. S. (2003). Recidivism rates for Drug Court graduates: Nationally based estimate - Final report. Washington DC: The Urban Institute and Caliber.
  5. ^ Langan & Cunniff. (1992). Recidivism of felons on probation. Washington DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  6. ^ Carey, S. M., Finigan, M., Crumpton, D., & Waller, M. (2006). California drug courts: Outcomes, costs and promising practices: An overview of phase II in a statewide study. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, SARC Supplement 3, 345-356.
  7. ^ Rhodes, W., Kling, R., & Shively, M. (2006). Suffolk County Court Evaluation. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.
  8. ^ Aos, S., Miller, M., & Drake, E. (2006). Evidence-based public policy options to reduce future prison construction, criminal justice costs, and crime rates. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
  9. ^ Bhati, A. S., Roman, J. K., & Chalfin, A. (2008, April). To treat or not to treat: Evidence on the prospects of expanding treatment to drug-involved offenders. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
  10. ^ Cooper, Caroline s. (2001, May). Juvenile Drug Court Programs. Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants Program Bulletin
  11. ^ Addiction and Mental Health Research Laboratory. (2009). Drug treatment Courts (DTCs). Edmonton,AB: University of Alberta. Fact sheet.
  12. ^ "UK Ministry of Justice reporting initial drug court trials". Ministry of Justice, UK. http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/research010408.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 

Suggested Reading

  • Brummer, Bennett H. and Rodham, Hugh, “Miami’s Drug Court: Leading the Way,” Cornerstone, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Spring 1993.
  • Clayton, Robert M.; (1999). "Missouri's Experience with Drug Courts." Spectrum, 72, 30-32.
  • Craddock, Amy; Rochester City Drug Treatment Court. (1999). Rochester Drug Treatment Court Participation Characteristics 1995-1998. Rochester.
  • Finn, Peter, and Newlyn, Andrea K.; National Institute of Justice. (1993). Miami's "Drug Court" A Different Approach. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Goldkamp, John S. and Weiland, Doris; National Institute of Justice. (1993). Assessing the Impact of Dade County's Felony Drug Court. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Huddleston, C. West; (1998). "Drug Courts and Jail-Based Treatment." Corrections Today, 60. 98-101.
  • Kaye (1999). "Making the Case for Hands-On Courts." Newsweek, 134, 11.
  • Mountjoy, John J. (1999). "Drug Courts: Making Prison Sentences a Thing of the Past?" Spectrum, 72, 2-4.
  • National Institute of Justice. (2006). Drug Courts: The Second Decade. CJ 211081. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. This report synthesizes the following research:
    • Anspach, Donald F. and Ferguson, Andrew S.; Assessing the Efficacy of Treatment Modalities in the Context of Adult Drug Courts, Final Report. Grant No. 2000–DC–VX–0008.
    • Butts, Jeffrey A., and Roman, John (eds.); Juvenile Drug Courts and Teen Substance Abuse. Washington DC The Urban Institute Press, 2004. (Based on research conducted under Grant No. 2000–DC–VX–K003).
    • Carey, Shannon M. and Finigan, Michael W.; Detailed Cost Analysis in a Mature Drug Court Setting: A Cost Benefit Evaluation of the Multnomah County Drug Court. Grant No. 2000–DC–VX–K004.
    • Finigan, Michael W., and Carey, Shannon M.; Analysis of 26 Drug Courts: Lessons Learned, Final Report. (Commissioned paper, 2002).
    • Goldkamp, John S., White, Michael D. and Robinson, Jennifer B.; From Whether to How Drug Courts Work: Retrospective Evaluation of Two Pioneering Drug Courts in Clark County (Las Vegas) and Multnomah County (Portland), Phase II Report from the National Evaluation of Drug Courts. Grant No. 98–DC–VX–K001.
  • Roman, John, Townsend, Wendy and Bhati, Avinash Singh; (2003). Recidivism Rates for Drug Court Graduates: Nationally Based Estimates, Final Report. NCJ 201229.
  • Thomas, Stephen. 2009. Texas Drug Courts: Are the Ten Key Components being utilized? Applied Research Project. Texas State University - San Marcos. http://ecommons.txstate.edu/arp/294/

External links

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