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Drug Courts

In 1989, the Dade County Circuit Court developed an intensive, community-based, treatment, rehabilitation, and supervision program for felony drug defendants to address rapidly increasing recidivism rates. Less than twenty years later, there are more than 2,140 drug courts in operation with another 284 being planned or developed.

Drug court diverts non-violent, substance abusing offenders from prison and jail into treatment. By increasing direct supervision of offenders, coordinating public resources, and expediting case processing, drug court can help break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and drug use, and incarceration. A decade of research indicates that drug court reduces crime by lowering rearrest and conviction rates, improv­ing substance abuse treatment outcomes, and reuniting families, and also produces measurable cost benefits.

Courts are operating or being planned in 50 States, the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, two Federal Districts, and more than 70 tribal locations.


Painting the Current Picture: A National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem Solving Court Programs in the United States (PDF)
This report from the National Drug Court Institute presents data, results, and outcomes compiled from numerous sources providing the current state of drug court research as well as results from the National Survey on Problem Solving Courts.

Adult Drug Courts: Evidence Indicates Recidivism Reductions and Mixed Results for Other Outcomes (PDF)
This analysis of 23 drug court programs by from the United States Government Accountability Office showed that lower percentages of drug court program participants than comparison group members were rearrested or reconvicted, and that participants had fewer recidivism events than comparison group members.

Local Drug Court Research: Navigating Performance Measures and Process Evaluations (PDF)
The purpose of this document from the National Drug Court Institute is to promote quality research for drug courts by providing a uniform and manageable data collection and evaluation strategy for local programs. These measures can be used across the spectrum of drug court programs to allow local jurisdictions to answer questions from stakeholders and funding agencies, as well as promoting sound management practices at the local court level.

Drug Court Review: Special Research Edition (PDF)
This special edition of the National Drug Court Institute's practitioner journal closely examines performance measurement, process evaluation, and recidivism under the broad structure of a national research agenda for drug courts.

Drug Courts: The Second Decade
This report presents findings from several recent studies that speak to the concerns of policymakers and practitioners about "what works" in drug courts. Topics addressed include how target populations and participant attributes affect program outcomes, the judge's role in the success of drug court participants, treatment issues, drug court interventions for juveniles, and cost-benefit analyses of drug courts.

Juvenile Drug Courts: Strategies in Practice (PDF)
This publication describes the framework for planning, implementing, and operating a juvenile drug court.

Recidivism Rates for Drug Court Graduates (PDF)
This NIJ sponsored report presents a general estimate of recidivism among a nationally representative sample of drug court graduates.

Summary of Drug Court Activity by State and County
Provides data on the number of drug courts that have been operating for over 2 years, recently been implemented, and those that are being planned.

More Publications

Drug Court Links

In the Spotlight: Drug Courts
This online resource includes the most up-to-date, comprehensive information regarding drug courts including statistics, legislation, programs, and events.

National Association of Drug Court Professionals
This organization seeks to reduce substance abuse, crime and recidivism by promoting and advocating for the establishment and funding of drug courts.

National Drug Court Institute
The mission of this organization is to promote education, research, and scholarship for drug courts and other court-based intervention programs.

Office of Justice Programs Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project
This program maintains a comprehensive clearinghouse of operational and evaluative materials on adult, juvenile, family, and tribal drug courts, and provides on-site technical assistance to drug court programs.

Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program (DCDG)
DCDG provides financial and technical assistance to states, state courts, local courts, units of local government, and American Indian tribal governments to develop and implement treatment drug courts.

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