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From Whether to How Drug Courts Work: Retrospective Evaluation of Drug Courts in Clark County (Las Vegas) and Multnomah County (Portland), Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
71 pages
Publication Series
This report summarizes Phase II findings from the national evaluation of the Portland (Multnomah County) and Las Vegas (Clark County) drug courts, two of the longest functioning and most highly recognized drug courts in the United States.
In the first part of this report, participant outcomes and service delivery are discussed, based on in-depth analyses of criminal justice and treatment outcomes. The second part of the evaluation focused on drug court workload, judicial staffing, acupuncture, and participant fees. The third section of the report addresses the early disposition program in Multnomah County, and drug courts are analyzed in their geographic context. Descriptions of the rural and juvenile "spin-off" drug courts in Clark County are included. The concluding section of the report presents a causal model of drug court impact based on the evaluation findings; it is applied in analyses of the Clark County and Multnomah County drug courts. By stating on a general level that a drug court should reduce an offender's criminal behavior, the causal model specifies that numerous contacts with the judge, a regular program of drug testing, attendance in appropriate treatment services, positive incentives, and acupuncture all serve as instrumental functions that translate into favorable drug court outcomes. Favorable outcomes among participants include not dropping out at an early stage, producing favorable interim progress reports, attending court as required, and graduating with all tasks satisfactorily completed. According to the causal drug court model, favorable drug court achievements produce favorable subsequent behavior in the form of fewer rearrests, lower fugitive rates from the justice process, reduced substance abuse, and other measures of law-abiding citizenship. In both of the drug court study sites, the expected positive relationship between longer times in treatment during the first year and drug court graduation (measured at 2 years) was found. The analysis concludes that under certain circumstances drug courts can deliver the advertised crime-reduction effect; "outside" factors account for some of the variation in their impact over time; and variation in the remainder of the drug court effect must be explained by factors internal to the drug court. 22 figures and 9 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001