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Overview of Drug Courts

Date Published
July 22, 2020

Drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems.

Find a drug court using the National Drug Court Resource Center's database.

The Drug Court Model

Although drug courts vary in target population, program design, and service resources, they are generally based on a comprehensive model involving:

  • Offender screening and assessment of risks, needs, and responsivity.
  • Judicial interaction.
  • Monitoring (e.g., drug testing) and supervision.
  • Graduated sanctions and incentives.
  • Treatment and rehabilitation services.

Drug courts are usually managed by a nonadversarial and multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community corrections, social workers and treatment service professionals. Support from stakeholders representing law enforcement, the family and the community is encouraged through participation in hearings, programming and events like graduation.

For information on evidence based practices, visit BJA-NIJ Adult Drug Court Research to Practice (R2P) Initiative

Read about NIJ’s Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation 

Learn about NIJ’s research on problem-solving courts

Also see NIJ's webpage on Drug Court Performance Measures, Program Evaluation and Cost Efficiency

For information on training and technical assistance resources:

National Institute of Justice, "Overview of Drug Courts," July 22, 2020, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: May 14, 2012