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Long Term Effects of Drug Court Participation Evidence from a 15 Year Follow up of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Prince George''s
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $31,982)

Recent meta-analyses of drug court evaluations conclude that drug courts are a more effective criminal justice response for drug offenders than traditional probation processing, but their long-term effects are unknown and it is not clear whether they are effective with offenders with significant criminal history records and chronic drug abusing histories. One of the most rigorous primary studies to date is the randomized trial of the Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court (BCDTC). Three-year follow-up data from this study showed that participation in the program reduced recidivism and that subjects self-reported less crime and substance use than did controls. These positive changes after three years are promising, but the ultimate goal of drug court programs is long-term, meaningful change for offenders. No long-term evaluations of drug treatment courts have yet been conducted. It is critical to assess the extent to which early behavior change due to participation in drug court is converted into social capital that continues to accrue benefits throughout the life course. By advancing our understanding of the long-term effects of drug court programs, this project will provide the criminal justice field with a greater understanding of the efficacy of drug courts with high risk populations. The proposed 18-month project will compare 15-year recidivism, incarceration, and mortality outcomes for the 235 BCDTC subjects. The project is unique in that it extends one of the few randomized trials of an established drug court and includes a group of offenders with substantial criminal and substance abuse histories. Subjects are adult arrestees who were assigned randomly to receive either BCDTC services or treatment as usual in the traditional court. Approximately 89% are African American and 74% are male. The study subjects have considerable criminal histories and were primarily opiate addicted. The study will supplement the previously obtained administrative and self-report data with an additional 12 years of recidivism data, as well as days spent incarcerated in jail and prison, for a total of 15 years of follow-up data. Mortality data for the 15-year period will also be obtained. Regression models will test for group differences both at the 15-year endpoint and in the parameters describing growth patterns over the 15-year period. The study involves an already-obtained research agreement with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The products of the work will be a completed dissertation and semi-annual progress reports. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 17, 2014