Are Drug Courts Effective? The National Institute of Justice Says Yes

Most counties in America now offer a drug court program as part of their alternative sentencing efforts. Drug court is typically offered to non-violent offenders who have substance abuse issues and are willing to participate in drug court.

The offender usually does less jail time, or no jail time if he agrees to enter drug court. The program can take from one year to 18 months to complete, depending on the county and whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Things to Note

  • Many judges agree to dismiss the criminal charges against the offender if the offender agrees to enter and complete the drug court program.
  • The program is highly structured, which some offenders need in their lives as they begin to learn how to make better decisions.
  • One Miami Dade Florida study found that drug court graduates returned to jail or probation less often than their non-drug court counterparts who were simply placed on probation.

For non-drug court participants in one examined county, the re-arrest rate was 40 percent at the felony level but was only 12 percent for drug court graduates.

  • Another study tracked 6,500 drug court graduates out of Portland, Oregon for five years. The re-arrest rate for those graduates was less than for those who had not gone to drug court and instead received felony probations.
  • The study also found that the cost of drug court per participant was less than the cost of traditional incarceration.
  • The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is a division of the federal justice department, attributes these successes to several things including the fact that
    drug court participants receive proper assessments and treatments for their substance abuse difficulties.

Related Video: Judge Peggy Hora’s talk on Drug Treatment Court

  • Judges become personally involved with participants, therefore the participants realize that people in authority positions believe in them. It helps the participants regain self-confidence, which in turn makes them want to succeed.

Final thoughts: Drug courts are successful for the offender who is ready to stop drugs and seek help. For those who are not, drug court can ultimately mean a delayed sentence because if the offender gets removed from the program after partial completing, he can be sent to jail to finish his sentence. This is the flip side.



About Mark Miclette 682 Articles
writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.