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Drug Courts: The Second Decade

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2006
38 pages

This report presents findings from recent studies concerning “what works” in drug courts.


The findings presented include research indicating that drug courts can effectively reduce recidivism and may produce other positive outcomes, yet the specific court processes that impact specific outcomes are still unknown. It is suggested that the effectiveness of a particular drug court may depend on how consistently court resources match the needs of offenders. Suggestions are made that include basing drug treatment services on formal theories of drug dependence and abuse, using the best therapeutic tools, and providing opportunities for participants to build cognitive skills. It is also suggested that ancillary services be in place to meet any co-occurring mental and physical health needs as well as other needs such as housing. Less is known about the treatment of juvenile offenders with substance abuse problems. Adult offenders have reported that one of the most important influences on their experiences with drug court programs has been the interactions with the judge. Evidence suggests that offenders who interact with a single drug court judge, rather than multiple judges, are more likely to comply with program demands. Research indicates that the allocation of resources to a drug court should be based on demonstrated benefit and that drug courts should estimate their costs using figures such as the average cost of incarceration. The studies included in this report were limited by a lack of accessible data on many aspects of drug court operations. Major areas under examination were drug court populations, participant characteristics, program outcomes, the judge’s role in the drug court setting, drug court interventions for juveniles, and cost-benefit analyses of drug courts. Notes, tables, exhibits

Date Published: June 1, 2006