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Beyond Crime and Drug Use: Do Adult Drug Courts Produce Other Psychosocial Benefits?

Mia Green,  Michael Rempel
Journal Title

An extensive body of research indicates that adult drug courts reduce reoffending, whereas a more limited number of studies point to reductions in drug use as well. However, barely any research examines whether these programs produce benefits in other areas, including socioeconomic well-being, family relationships, mental health, and homelessness. To fill this important gap, findings are presented from a quasi-experimental study of 1,156 drug court participants from 23 sites and 625 comparison offenders from 6 sites where drug courts are unavailable. Six-month follow-up interviews were conducted with 1,533 offenders (86%) and 18-month interviews with 1,474 (83%) offenders. Findings indicate that drug courts produced modest positive effects (though many were not statistically significant) across a range of socioeconomic outcomes. Findings also indicate that drug courts reduced family conflict. However, significant effects were not evident with respect to emotional or instrumental support from family members, mental health, or homelessness.

Lapham, S., & England-Kennedy, E. (2011). Convicted Driving-While-Impaired Offenders’ Views on Effectiveness of Sanctions and Treatment: Qualitative Health Research
open pdf2012adult

A Specialized Treatment Court for Veterans with Trauma Exposure: Implications for the Field



This study examines the efficacy of providing a Veterans Treatment Court specialized docket to trauma-affected veterans. Eighty-Six veterans enrolled in a jail diversion and trauma recovery Veterans Treatment Court program. Veteran participants were interviewed at baseline, 6- and 12-months to determine if the program led to improvements in jail recidivism, psychiatric symptoms, quality of life, and recovery. The results suggest that veteran’s involved in the Veterans Treatment Court programs experienced significant improvement in PTSD, depression, substance abuse, overall functioning, emotional wellbeing, relationships with others, recovery status, social connectedness, family functioning, and sleep.


Examining the use of visual performance feedback in drug treatment court.


A key component of drug courts is regular status hearings in which the judge reviews client progress and imposes sanctions or rewards for infractions or achievements; however, little is known about whether drug court clients fully understand the reasons for judicial responses and make clear connections between their behavior and judicially imposed consequences. Thus, we hypothesized that providing graphic performance feedback would improve clients’ perceptions of procedural justice and increase the likelihood of success. This study examines the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a visual performance feedback (VPF) procedure designed to improve judge–client communication during status hearings. Seventy-five adult misdemeanor drug court participants were randomized to a VPF (n = 37) or status hearings as usual (n = 38) condition. In the VPF condition, the judge projected and described two graphs for each client (i.e., abstinence rates, treatment attendance for the past two months). Outcomes included feasibility, client and stakeholder acceptability, urinalysis-confirmed abstinence, treatment attendance, perceptions of procedural justice, and duration of client–judge interactions. Findings revealed a high level of judge adherence to the VPF (feasibility), client and stakeholder acceptability of the VPF procedure, and significantly longer client–judge interactions in the VPF condition. No significant differences were observed for client-level efficacy outcomes. Overall, this study demonstrated that providing VPF to drug court clients during judicial status hearings is feasible and acceptable. Future fully powered trials of the VPF procedure are needed to further examine its efficacy in improving outcomes for drug court clients. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)




Predicting success and failure in juvenile drug treatment court: A meta-analytic review



This meta-analysis summarizes 41 studies that examined associations between characteristics of adolescent participants in juvenile drug treatment court and outcomes (i.e., premature termination, recidivism). A summary of within- and post-program recidivism rates was calculated, as was a global estimate of the premature drop-out rate. One clear trend in the available studies was the dramatic difference in recidivism rates for adolescents who succeed in graduating from drug court, relative to those who do not. In addition, the review revealed that behavior patterns evidenced during drug court participation were most strongly associated with both the probability of graduating successfully from drug court and recidivism (e.g., few in-program arrests, citations, detentions, and referrals; greater length of time in program or amount of treatment; lower use of drug and alcohol use, few positive urine screens, greater school attendance). Unfortunately, non-white participants tend to have a lower probability of graduation from drug court and experience higher recidivism during and following the program. Available juvenile drug treatment court studies confirm a number of reputed adolescent risk factors associated with substance abuse, criminality, treatment failure, and recidivism among adolescents (e.g., higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems, higher levels and severity of pre-program substance abuse, male gender). Suggestions for improving the effects of juvenile drug treatment court based on key results of the meta-analysis are offered.




Consumers’ Perspectives on Successful and Unsuccessful Experiences in a Drug Treatment Court

Merith Cosden, Amber Baker, Cristina Benki, Sarah Patz, Sara Walker & Kristen Sullivan
Journal: Substance Use & Misuse

This study focused on the program experiences of 190 men and women who chose to participate in a drug treatment court in lieu of incarceration in California. Participants had committed non-violent criminal offenses related to drug abuse. The program required 18 months of community-based treatment in conjunction with court supervision including frequent drug testing and 6 months of abstinence for successful program completion. Interviews were conducted in 2007/2008 with 94 participants who had successfully completed treatment and 96 who had not. Open-ended questions addressed reasons for entering and remaining in treatment and supports and obstacles to program completion. Responses were coded using ethnographic content analysis. Factors associated with successful program completion are discussed.

Cosden, M., Baker, A., Benki, C., Patz, S., Walker, S., & Sullivan, K. (2010). Consumers’ Perspectives on Successful and Unsuccessful Experiences in a Drug Treatment Court. Substance Use & Misuse, 45(7–8), 1033–1049.