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Rebirth of Rehabilitation: Promise and Perils of Drug Courts, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2000
8 pages
Publication Series
Drug courts have proliferated in recent years, and the experience of Delaware in implementing drug courts to improve court case flow management and to reduce prison overcrowding due to drug cases is reported.
The rise of the drug court movement is best understood in the context of the changing goals of sentencing policies that have alternatively focused on rehabilitation, punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and restoration. Drug cases began to escalate dramatically in the 1980's, with petty drug offenders being recycled through the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. Delaware's situation was typical; overwhelmed with drug cases, State courts sought ways to manage case flow and solve the "revolving door" problem. Delaware's drug courts began with an effort to solve the problems of drugs and crime. Because a drug treatment continuum did not exist, the Treatment Access Committee was established to ensure drug offenders did not fall through the cracks. The diversion track of Delaware's drug court model calls for a modest investment of 6 months to a year in drug court, with outpatient treatment and frequent urine tests. The probation revocation track is for offenders charged with a new crime. Under this track, all addiction sentences require frequent court appearances and the assignment of a Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime case manager to ensure continuity of treatment in the transition from jail to halfway house to community. Scientific evaluations of Delaware's drug courts are not complete, but initial studies are encouraging. By the end of 1999, charges were dismissed for 2,670 individuals, about half of those who entered the drug court treatment program. Treatment providers indicated 18 months into the program that their clients were more likely to complete treatment than other clients and that their clients stayed in treatment longer. Key characteristics of drug courts are considered, as well as their benefits and limitations, client and treatment differences, and resource availability. 24 notes

Date Published: May 1, 2000