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Exploring the Key Components of Drug Courts: A Comparative Study of 18 Adult Drug Courts on Practices, Outcomes, and Costs

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2008
136 pages
This study explored how various drug court programs were implementing the “10 Key Components” that all drug courts should share as benchmarks for performance, as identified in “Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components” (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 1997).
The analysis found that drug courts exercise a significant degree of discretion in how they implement the 10 key components. For each of the 10 components, there were both similarities and differences in how drug courts were operated. Variation in how various components are designed and implemented is not a negative finding in itself, since differences across drug courts are expected as each program tailors its components to meet the needs of the population served. Still, the identification of any variation in practice within a key component is helpful, since it may explain why some drug courts are more effective than others. The practices that show variation among the courts in this sample are the practices that may be the most fruitful in determining promising or best practices for drug courts. Any variation in outcomes among drug courts in different jurisdictions, however, must take into account not only the variation in features of the examined practice but also the variation in clients being served and how a given practice interacts with these clients. Client differences include drug of choice; level of addition; legal issues; and life issues such as employment, education, and health needs. Future research in a larger number of drug courts should focus on best practices for specific client populations and within specific contexts. This report lists promising practices related to reduced costs and lower recidivism. The evaluation, conducted between 2000 and 2006, involved 18 adult drug courts from jurisdictions across the United States, with attention to process, outcome, and cost variables. 36 tables, 32 figures, and 35 references

Date Published: March 1, 2008