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Justice Policy Institute Report on Increase in Drug Courts Mar 2011

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JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE | MARCH 2011

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 1 
Background .................................................................................................................................... 2 
What are drug courts? ............................................................................................................... 2 
Why do we have drug courts? ................................................................................................. 3 
Treatment through the justice system is not more effective than other treatment .......... 6 
Drug courts are not the best way to improve public safety .................................................. 9 
Special Topic: Project H.O.P.E.: Not a drug court ................................................................. 11 
Drug courts are not as cost‐effective as other options ......................................................... 12 
Less costly, more effective practices are ignored in favor of drug courts........................ 12 
Drug court money is spent on people who least benefit .................................................... 14 
Drug courts do not provide the best public safety value ................................................... 14 
Drug courts widen the net of criminal justice control ......................................................... 16 
Special Topic: Emerging Specialty Courts ............................................................................. 18 
Drug courts do not treat everyone equally ............................................................................ 21 
Drug courts “cherry pick” ...................................................................................................... 21 
Special Topic: New Jersey Drug Courts ................................................................................. 22 
People of color and those of lower income are more likely to be kicked out  ................. 23 
Bad things happen when people are kicked out of drug court ......................................... 24 
Special Topic: Veteran Courts .................................................................................................. 25 
Recommendations ...................................................................................................................... 26 
Additional Reading .................................................................................................................... 27 
Acknowledgements .................................................................................................................... 28 
Endnotes ....................................................................................................................................... 29 
 
 

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1

 

INTRODUCTION
 

The 2009 U.S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health revealed that
21.8 million people—8.7 percent of the population over age 12—reported
using illicit drugs in the month prior to being surveyed.1 About 7.8
million people surveyed indicated they needed treatment; this is more
than the prevalence of lung, breast and prostate cancer combined.2 As
addiction is a disease,3 an appropriate approach to a public health issue
of this magnitude would be to substantially increase funding for
treatment in communities. But this has not been the case.  
 

Instead  of  providing  treatment  for  people 
with addictions, over the last few decades 
there  has  been  a  war  on  people  who  use 
drugs, fought through the criminal justice 
system. Police made 1.6 million arrests for 
drug offenses in 2009; of these, more than 
four  in  five  were  for  possession  rather 
than  sales  of  illegal  drugs.4  In  2008,  29 
percent  of  all  admissions  to  state  prisons—
194,000—were for drug offenses.5  
 
The  explosion  of  prison  populations,  due 
in  part  to  increasing  numbers  of  people 
convicted of drug offenses, led some states 
and  localities  to  explore  alternatives  to 
drug  incarceration.  One  such  alternative 
that  was  developed  in  the  late  1980s  was 
the  drug  court.    As  originally  envisioned, 
drug  courts  would  be  a  new  model  that 
would  reduce  the  number  of  people  in 
prison for drug offenses, help people with 
addictions,  and  improve  public  safety. 
Over  55,000  people  enter  drug  courts 
annually.6  
 
While  drug  courts  may  be  a  better  justice 
system option than incarceration, they are 

still  a  justice  system  approach  to  a  public 
health  issue.  Drug  courts  also  are  not  the 
most effective way to help people who are 
struggling  with  addiction,  and  in  many 
ways,  only  serve  to  “widen  the  net”  of 
U.S.  criminal  justice  control,  which  now 
stands  at  about  7  million  people  either 
incarcerated or on probation or parole.7  
 
Certainly,  drug  courts  can  and  do  help 
some people who are drug dependent and 
who  are  engaged  in  illegal  behavior.  The 
questions  that  this  report seeks  to  answer 
are  why  we  have  drug  courts  in  the  first 
place,  whether  we  should  continue  to 
utilize  and  expand  drug  courts,  and  at 
what  expense—in  terms  of  both  direct 
costs or opportunities foregone.  

“By simultaneously treating drug
use as a crime and as a disease,
without coming to grips with the inherent
contradictions of those two approaches, drug
courts are not satisfying either the legitimate
and compassionate interests of the treatment
community or the legitimate and rational
interests of the law enforcement community.”
Judge Morris B. Hoffman, “The Drug Court Scandal,”
North Carolina Law Review 78 (2000). Pg.1477

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2

BACKGROUND
 

The first drug court started in 1989 in Dade County, Florida as a way to
work with people whose criminal justice involvement was likely due to
an addiction.8 Today, the U.S. and its territories run 2,559 drug
treatment courts and another 1,219 problem solving courts.9  
 

The number of drug courts in the U.S. increased
dramatically over the last 20 years.
Operational drug court programs

2,500
2,147
1,926
1,756
1,621

2,000

1,500
1,183
1,048
847

1,000
665
472
347

500
1

1

5

75
10 19 40

139

230

0
1989

1991

1993

1995

1997

1999

2001

2003

2005

2007

Source: C. West Huddleston, III, Douglas B. Marlowe, and Rachel Casebolt, Painting the Current Picture:
A National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Court Programs in the United States,
Volume II, Number 1 (Washington, D.C.: National Drug Court Institute, May 2008) 

 

What are drug courts?

program.  Alternatively,  post‐adjudication 
(“post‐plea”)  programs  require  participants 
to plead guilty to the charges against them, 
and  have  their  sentences  deferred  or 
suspended while they are in the program. 
The  sentence  will  be  waived  or  reduced, 
and  often  the  offense  will  be  expunged 
from  their  record,*  if  he  or  she  completes 
the program. The case will be returned to 

While  drug  courts  vary  across  localities 
and  no  drug  court  is  exactly  the  same  as 
the  next,  there  are  two  main  categories 
of  drug  courts:  deferred  prosecution 
programs  (pretrial  diversion  method, 
or  “pre‐plea”)  and  post‐adjudication 
programs  (post  sentencing  method). 
People  who  enter  a  deferred  prosecution 
program  are  diverted  into  the  drug  court 
system  before  being  convicted.  They  are 
not required to plead guilty, and are only 
prosecuted  if  they  fail  to  complete  the 

                                                            
 Expungement does not necessarily mean 
that there will be no record of the offense. 
Rather, a background check will show an 
addendum that the charge was expunged. 
*

 
 

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and  arrest‐free  for  a  specified  period  of 
time  and  meeting  such  other  obligations 
as  securing  housing  or  employment. 
Participants  frequently  meet  with  the 
drug  court  judge  and  other  judicial  and 
clinical  staff  in  status  meetings  aimed  at 
monitoring  each  individual’s  progress.14 
Participants are regularly drug tested and 
receive rewards or face sanctions based on 
how  well  they  follow  the  rules  of  the 
court.  Rewards  can  include  verbal  praise, 
certificates or other tokens of approval, as 
well  as  moving  to  the  next  level  of 
supervision,  which  may  include  less 
frequent  visits  to  the  court.  Sanctions  can 
include 
everything 
from 
verbal 
admonishment  and  writing  essays  to 
spending  time  in  jail  or  being  kicked  out 
of  the  program  and  facing  traditional 
sentencing. 

court  and  the  person  will  face  sentencing 
on  their  previously  entered  guilty  plea  if 
he  or  she  fails  to  satisfy  the  program 
requirements.10 
 
The  original  drug  courts  were  almost 
solely  pre‐plea,  but  according  to  the 
National Drug Court Institute, only about 
7 percent of today’s adult drug courts are 
diversionary  or  pre‐plea,  compared  to  59 
percent  that  are  post‐conviction  and 
another  19  percent  that  work  both  with 
people  who  are  pre‐plea  or  post‐plea.  In 
total,  78  percent  of  all  adult  drug  courts 
have  a  probationary  or  post‐plea 
condition.11  The  consequences  associated 
with  a  post‐plea  program  will  be 
discussed later in this report. 
 
Each  drug  court  is  different,  perhaps 
because  of  differences  in  community 
needs  or  population.    While  the  National 
Association  of  Drug  Court  Professionals 
and  others  have  laid  out  guidelines  for 
best  practices  in  drug  courts,12  not  every 
court  across  the  country  follows  these 
standards, 
and 
both 
eligibility 
requirements  and  court  processes  vary 
nationally.  Generally,  people  are  eligible 
for  drug  courts  when  they’ve  been 
charged  with  drug  possession  or  a 
nonviolent  offense,  and  must  have  either 
tested positive for drugs or have a history 
of substance abuse at the time of arrest.13 
 
Standard  drug  court  programs  usually 
run between six months and one year, but 
many  participants  remain  for  longer 
because  they  must  complete  the  entire 
program  cycle  in  order  to  graduate. 
Program  completion  entails  being  drug 

 

Why do we have drug courts?
About  a  quarter  of  people  in  prison  and 
jail†  in  the  U.S.—over  half  a  million 
people—are  incarcerated  for  a  drug 
offense.15  And  about  28  percent  of  people 
in  state  prison  and  5  percent  of  people  in 
federal  prisons  for  a  drug  offense  were 
convicted of drug possession, not selling.16 
With  the  dramatic  increase  in  the  prison 
population  since  the  1970s,  states  and 
localities  have  been  struggling  to  manage 
the  influx  of  people  in  prison,  which  was 
further exacerbated by harsher sentencing 
policies.  These  include  mandatory 

                                                            
 Jail numbers estimated based on number of 
people in jail in 2009 (767,620) multiplied by 
the percentage of the jail population 
incarcerated for a drug offense based on 
2002 numbers, the most recent year available 
(25%). 

†

 
 

3

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4

Number of persons under jurisdiction of
state correctional authorities for drug
offenses

More than 12 times as many people are in prison for drug
offenses as in 1980.
300,000

265,800

250,000
200,000
150,000
100,000
50,000

19,000

0
1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Key Facts at a Glance, Number of persons under jurisdiction of state
correctional authorities by most serious offense, 1980-2006 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice,
Accessed January 2010) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/corrtyptab.cfm

minimums  and  truth‐in‐sentencing  laws, 
especially  for  drug  offenses,  including 
possession  offenses.  From  1980  to  2008, 
the number of people in state prisons for a 
drug  offense  increased  1,223  percent, 
accounting for 21.7 percent of overall state 
prison  growth  during  this  time.17  The 
most  recent  survey  of  people  in  prison 
showed  that  53  percent  of  people  in  state 
prisons  meet  the  criteria  for  substance 
abuse or dependence.18 

alternative  to  incarceration  and  a 
diversion  method,  recognizing  that  some 
people would have better outcomes with a 
treatment 
process 
rather 
than 
incarceration.  Drug  courts’  popularity 
continues to increase as a large number of 
people continue to be arrested every year 
for  low‐level  drug  offenses  and  other 
nonviolent  offenses.  And  in  the  current 
budget  crises,  states  can  no  longer  afford 
to incarcerate people who are a low risk to 
public safety.  
 
Drug use and criminal justice involvement 
appear to be linked. A 2004 Department of 
Justice  study  found  that  around  17 
percent  of  people  in  prison  committed 
their  crimes  to  get  money  for  drugs.19 
Because  of  the  lack  of  accessible, 
community‐based 
substance 
abuse 
treatment,  many  people  are  only  able  to 
receive  access  to  the  treatment  they  need 

“[Drug treatment courts] are less
a diversion from prison than a
diversion from other alternatives
to prison.” Michael M. O’Hear
 
Drug  courts were  created at  the  height  of 
this increase in drug incarceration to give 
states  an  option  for  working  with  people 
with drug addiction or who commit drug 
offenses.  They  were  promoted  as  an 

 
 

ADDICTED TO COURTS

after  being  arrested—and  even  after  they 
are  arrested,  they  still  are  not  guaranteed 
treatment programs, regardless of need. 
 
According to the National Survey on Drug 
Use and Health, about 9 percent of people 
in  the  U.S.  are  classified  with  substance 
abuse  or  dependence  for  drugs  and/or 
alcohol,20  but  less  than  a  quarter  of  them 
receive  treatment.  For  those  who  do 
receive  treatment  for  a  drug  addiction, 
over  a  third,  37  percent,  are  referred  by 
the criminal justice system.21 The criminal 
justice  system  is  the  largest  single  source 
of  referrals  to  substance  abuse  treatment 
nationally;  the  proportion  of  substance 
abuse  treatment  admissions  referred  by 
the criminal justice system increased from 
33 percent in 1992 to 37 percent in 2007.22  
 
Another  reason  for  the  proliferation  of 
drug  courts  is  the  failure  of  probation 
departments  to  adequately  address  the 
needs  of  clients  with  addictions.  Some  of 
the  same  mechanisms  drug  courts  use 
(treatment  services,  supervision,  and  case 
management) have traditionally been part 
of probation. But as the number of people 
on  probation  continues  to  grow  and 
caseloads increase, probation departments 
complain  that  they  do  not  have  the 
resources  or  time  to  dedicate  to  their 
clients  and  provide  the  services  their 
clients  need  to  be  successful  and  stay 
away  from  the  criminal  justice  system.23 
Drug  courts  can  be  more  resource 
intensive,‡ but do basically the same thing 
as probation departments are tasked with 
doing—provide  case  management  and 
treatment  resources  while  under  criminal 

justice  supervision.  And  often,  probation 
and parole officers are more limited in the 
options  they  have  to  respond  to  either 
positive  achievements  or  relapses  than 
drug court judges. 
 

The criminal justice system is
the largest single source of
referrals to substance abuse
treatment nationally.

All
Others
63%

Criminal
Justice
System
37%

Source: The TEDS Report, “Substance Abuse Treatment
Admissions Referred by the Criminal Justice System,”
August 13, 2009.
www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/211/211CJadmits2k9.htm 

                                                            
 See section on costs later in report. 

‡

 
 

5

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6

TREATMENT THROUGH THE JUSTICE
SYSTEM IS NOT MORE EFFECTIVE THAN
OTHER TREATMENT.
 

A perception among drug court supporters is that drug courts are the
most effective way to work with people with addictions who come into
contact with the justice system. This is partially based on a belief that
people need the threat of sanctions to be motivated into treatment. But
national data and research from people who actually provide treatment
tell a different story.  
 
treatment  by  the  criminal  justice  system 
are  more  likely  to  end  up  incarcerated 
than people referred from other sources, 4 
percent versus 1 percent, respectively. 
 
This  small  difference  in  results  does  not 
justify  the  significant  costs  (including 
monetary, societal and personal) of justice 
system  involvement  such  as  participating 
in  a  drug  court.  This  is  particularly  true 
when  substantial  barriers  prevent  low‐
income  communities  from  accessing 
treatment  that  could  have  kept  them  out 
of the justice system in the first place. 
 
Data  from  the  Substance  Abuse  and 
Mental  Health  Services  Administration 
(SAMHSA)  shows  that  people  living  in 
poverty  are  more  likely  than  people  with 
more  resources  to  need  but  not  receive 
treatment.26 Of people living in poverty in 
2006  and  2008  who  needed  substance 
abuse  treatment,  only  about  18  percent 
received  it.  And  people  from  this  group 
with  no  health  insurance  coverage  are 
more  likely  than  those  with  insurance  to 
need  substance  abuse  treatment  in  the 
past  year  (14.9  percent  versus  11.2 
percent, respectively). 

Front‐end  treatment  for  people  before 
they  become  involved  in  the  justice 
system  can  be  even  more  effective  than 
treatment  through  the  justice  system, 
which  includes  drug  courts,  and  it 
improves  public  safety  by  reducing  the 
“collateral  damage”  that  addiction  can 
cause to communities. 
 
Claims  that  people  with  substance  abuse 
problems need the added push of judicial 
supervision to succeed24 are not supported 
data.  Statistics  from  the  Substance  Abuse 
and 
Mental 
Health 
Services 
Administration  (SAMHSA)  Treatment 
Episode  Data  Set  (TEDS)  shows  little 
difference  in  terms  of  success  for  people 
who are referred to treatment by criminal 
justice  agencies  and  those  from  other 
sources.25 About 49 percent of people who 
are  referred  to  treatment  by  criminal 
justice  agencies  complete  treatment  and 
another  13  percent  are  transferred  to 
another  level  of  care.  Taken  together,  62 
percent of people referred to treatment by 
the  criminal  justice  system  complete 
treatment  or  transfer  to  further  treatment 
compared to 60 percent of people referred 
from  other  sources.  People  referred  to 

 
 

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7

Percentage of Substance Abuse Treatment Discharges,
by Referral Source and Reason for Discharge: 2007

Outcomes for people who were referred to treatment by the
criminal justice system are not much better than those from
other sources.
60%
50%

Criminal Justice System Referrals

49%

All Other Referrals

46%

40%
27%

30%
22%
20%
13% 14%

7% 7%

10%

5% 5%

4%
1%
0%
Completed
Treatment

Transferred

Dropped Out

Terminated

Incarcerated

Other

Source: The TEDS Report, “Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Referred by the Criminal Justice System,”
August 13, 2009. www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/211/211CJadmits2k9.htm. Figure 2.

 

 
 

 
 

ADDICTED TO COURTS

8

 

A criminal conviction should not be
treatment admission criteria.
For many people, involvement in the criminal justice system is the only way to have access to
treatment for substance abuse disorders. Low-income communities that are already facing
challenges associated with poverty and substance abuse are the most likely to be unable to afford
private treatment or have access to whatever community-based resources are available.*
The problem with relying on the criminal justice system is twofold. Not only must people receiving
treatment through the criminal justice system face the collateral consequences associated with
such involvement, they often don’t have the chance to address their addiction before being
arrested for a drug-related offense. This further contributes to the disproportionate representation
of lower-income people in the criminal justice system.
Short of providing health care to all people, research included in this report shows that prevention
and treatment available in the community promotes public safety, supports positive life outcomes,
and is cost-effective. In addition, with scarce public resources and often limited services available,
treatment allocated to criminal justice referrals may be taking away chances for people in the
community to receive the help they need without having to first be arrested.
People shouldn’t have to wait until they are arrested for treatment, and treatment is not more
effective if it comes with a criminal justice price tag.  
 
 
*

Sarah Lyons and Nastassia Walsh, Money Well Spent: How positive social investments will reduce incarceration rates,
improve public safety, and promote the well-being of communities (Washington, D.C.: Justice Policy Institute, 2010) 
www.justicepolicy.org 

 
 

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9

DRUG COURTS ARE NOT THE BEST WAY
TO IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY.
While treatment in the community before someone is justice-involved is
critical, policymakers and practitioners must still manage the reality that
people are arrested for offenses related to an addiction. Drug courts are
only one of a number of options available for addressing people with
addictions who come into contact with the justice system.
programs were the most effective in terms 
of  reducing  recidivism.29  They  reported 
that  adult  drug  courts  could  reduce 
recidivism  rates  by  around  8.7  percent. 
Drug treatment in the community is quite 
comparable,  reducing  recidivism  by  8.3 
percent. In contrast, intensive supervision 
programs  focused  on  treatment  reduced 
crime  by  about  18  percent.  Drug  courts, 
therefore, do not necessarily have the best 
public  safety  outcomes  of  all  justice‐
related treatment programs. 
 
One  of  the  challenges  with  studies  that 
look  at  drug  court  outcomes  is  that  it  is 
difficult  to  have  an  appropriate  control 
group.  Control  groups  that  are  made  up 
of  non‐drug  court  participants  can  be 
problematic  because  of  underlying 
characteristics  of  people  in  that  group, 
including  possible  reasons  for  their  not 
being  offered  drug  court  (nature  of  their 
crime  or  addiction,  criminal  history, 
resources, etc.). In addition, with evidence 
of  “cherry  picking”  participants  for  drug 
courts,  those  who  were  admitted  to  the 
programs  may  already  be  more  likely  to 
succeed  than  their  counterparts  in  the 
control groups.30  

Drug  court  advocates  often  cite  their 
programs’  low  recidivism  rates.  But  to 
understand real effectiveness, we must ask, 
“Compared to what?” Research shows that 
treatment  works—it  reduces  the  likelihood 
that  someone  will  engage  in  future  illegal 
activity  and  promotes  positive  life 
changes.27  However,  treatment  through  the 
criminal  justice  system—and  through  drug 
courts—is  not  the  only  option,  and  some 
options may work better than others. 
 
Recidivism rates are measured differently by 
each drug court program and the concurrent 
analyses  of  drug  courts.  Re‐arrest  and 
reconviction  rates  are  the  most  common 
measures, but an average reduction is hard to 
come by, as they can range from a 4 percent 
decrease  in  recidivism  to  a  70  decrease  in 
some places.28 
 
The  Washington  State  Institute  for  Public 
Policy  frequently  issues  reports  that 
examine the effectiveness of programs for 
people  involved  in  the  criminal  and 
juvenile  justice  systems.  In  one  report, 
researchers  conducted  a  meta‐analysis  of 
545  studies  on  programs  working  with 
people in the justice system—including 57 
drug  court  studies—to  determine  which 
 

 
 

Percent Change in Crime Outcomes

ADDICTED TO COURTS

-25%

10

Drug courts are not the most effective criminal justice
treatment options.
Intensive Supervision:
Treatment-oriented programs

-17.9%

Adult drug courts

-8.7%

Drug treatment in community

-8.3%

Drug treatment in prison*

-6.4%

Drug treatment in jail

0.0%
-20%

-15%

-10%

-5%

0%

*Therapeutic communities or outpatient
Sources: Elizabeth K. Drake, Steve Aos, and Marna G. Miller, “Evidence-Based Public Policy
Options to Reduce Crime and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State,” Victims
and Offenders, 4:170–196. Table 1, www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/09-00-1201.pdf

Additionally,  many  of  these  studies  are 
based  on  people  who  complete  drug 
court—a  variable  fraction  of  those  who 
enter  it31—possibly  making  them  more 
likely  to  succeed  outside,  as  they  have 
been  able  to  follow  the  strict  rules  of  a 
court  for  months  and  even  years  in  some 
courts.  Still,  a  number  of  studies  that 
looked  at  longitudinal  outcomes  reaching 
to  three  years  after  participation  in  the 
drug court found little to no difference in 
recidivism  rates  for  participants  versus 
non‐participants like people on probation; 
 

the  Baltimore32  and  Maricopa  County33 
Drug Courts showed little difference in re‐
arrest  rates,  and  participants  in  a  Las 
Cruces,  New  Mexico  DWI  Court  had 
similar traffic reconviction rates.34 
 
As  drug  courts  continue  to  be  one  of  the 
most expensive options for addressing the 
addiction  issues  of  people  in  the  justice 
system  outside  of  prison,  we  should  be 
putting  the  bulk  of  our  resources  where 
we get the most return. 

 
 

 

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11

Project H.O.P.E.: Not a drug court
Project H.O.P.E. (Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) was started by Judge
Steven Alm in 2004 as an alternative to traditional probation. The program mandates drug
abstinence though drug testing and gradually escalating punitive sanctions. The premise of the
program is similar to traditional probation, with the main difference being swift and sure
repercussions for violating the rules of probation, which are handed down directly by a judge,
and include a few days to a week in jail. Each participant receives a warning hearing at the start
of the program that lays out the requirements of the program and sanctions for noncompliance.
Rather than a team approach to case management with drug courts, H.O.P.E. relies heavily on
probation officers, and only when a person violates the guidelines of the program do they see a
judge. With the program’s focus on reducing drug use, strict drug testing is a main component,
and unlike drug courts which provide treatment to all participants, drug treatment is only
provided for the individuals who cannot stop using drugs on their own. Participants’
noncompliance to the program standards result in their arrest, a court appearance and
frequently jail time. Unlike drug courts, H.O.P.E. participants do not have to fit into specific
categories of offenses or backgrounds—they accept people with varying levels of addiction and
criminal histories, including violent offenses and focus on those considered “high-risk.”1
While short-term results have been favorable when compared to traditional probation,2 a main
concern with the Project H.O.P.E. program is the lack long-term evidence to support its
effectiveness. To date, only one non-peer-reviewed evaluation of H.O.P.E.3 has been
completed. The use of jail time as a deterrent for drug use is also problematic, as the
effectiveness of punishment alone has never been found long term, and no other nonincarcerative sanctions have been tried.4 Finally, Project H.O.P.E. is more expensive than
traditional probation; H.O.P.E. costs about $2,500 per participant, including the costs of
treatment, compared with about $1,000 for routine probation supervision.5 However, additional
expenses of the program are accrued through jail time for sanctions handed down by the judge.
As programs like Project H.O.P.E. continue to gain interest in other states, it is important to
consider research concerning the most effective aspects of reforms or initiatives that ensure
that people receive the treatment and services they need to have the best long-term outcomes.
1

Vera Institute of Justice, More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Why Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement
(HOPE) Program Works (Washington, D.C.: 2010) www.vera.org/files/HOPE%20Policy%20Brief.pdf
2
Mark A. R. Kleiman, When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton University
Press, 2009); Mark Kleiman, “Smarter Punishment, Less Crime: Why reducing incarceration and victimization should
be complementary goals,” The American Prospect, December 6, 2010.
www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=smarter_punishmean_less_crime
3
Angela Hawken and Mark Kleiman, Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions:
Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE (Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, 2009)
www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/229023.pdf
4
See, for example, Andres Rengifo and Christine Scott-Hayward, Assessing the Effectiveness of Intermediate
Sanctions in Multnomah County, Oregon (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, July 2008)
www.vera.org/content/assessing-effectiveness-intermediate-sanctions-multnomah-county-oregon; California Society
of Addiction Medicine, Proposition 36 Revisited, Accessed January 2011. www.csamasam.org/prop36article.vp.html; J.S.Goldkamp, M.D. White and J.B. Robinson, “Do drug courts work? Getting inside
the drug court black box,” Journal of Drug Issues 31, no. 1 (2001): 27-72.
5
Angela Hawken and Mark Kleiman, “H.O.P.E. for Reform: What a novel probation program in Hawaii might teach
other states,” The American Prospect, April 10, 2007. www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=hope_for_reform

 
 

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DRUG COURTS ARE NOT AS
EFFECTIVE AS OTHER OPTIONS.

12

COST-

 

Many studies about drug courts boast of their money-saving
capabilities. However, drug courts carry hidden costs, including the lost
opportunity to invest taxpayer dollars in ways that might be more
effective. For example, drug court spending may reduce the amount
available for other, non-justice strategies that, as outlined below, can
provide a better return on investment.
Less costly, more effective
practices are ignored in favor of
drug courts.


At  their  inception,  drug  courts  were 
meant  to  be  an  additional  alternative  to 
incarceration,  not  a  way  to  avoid  reforms 
in  other  areas  of  both  the  justice  and 
public  health  systems.  Over  the  last  20 
years,  drug  courts  have  become  a  work‐
around  and  a  distraction  from  making 
reforms  in  areas  that  could  save 
jurisdictions  money  in  the  long  run. 
Instead,  drug  courts  draw  scarce  public 
dollars away from areas of reform such as: 
 
 Probation:  As  the  number  of  people 
under  the  supervision  of  the  criminal 
justice  system  has  increased, 
probation 
departments 
have 
increasingly  been  overwhelmed  with 
large caseloads and reduced staffing.35 
Rather  than  increasing  funding  for 
probation  and  the  accompanying 
treatment  services  that  are  proven 
ways  to  help  keep  people  in  the 
community,  criminal  justice  dollars 
are  being  directed  toward  drug 
courts,  which  can  be  more  expensive 

                                                            
§ Cost numbers vary by locality. The 
Sentencing Project reports that the average cost 
per person for drug court is $4,300.  Ryan S. 
King and Jill Pasquarella, Drug Courts: A 
Review of the Evidence (Washington, D.C.: The 
Sentencing Project, 2009). The Washington 
State Institute for Public Policy estimates that 
drug courts cost $11,227 per participant. Robert 
Barnoski and Steve Aos, Washington State’s 
Drug Courts for Adult Defendants: Outcome 
Evaluation and Cost‐Benefit Analysis (Olympia, 
WA: Washington State Institute for Public 
Policy, 2003). Multnomah County, Oregon 
estimates costs around $5,927 per participant. 
Shannon Carey and Michael Finigan, A 
Detailed Cost Analysis in a Mature Drug Court 
Setting: A Cost‐Benefit Evaluation of the 
Multnomah County Drug Court (Portland, OR: 
NPC Research, Inc., 2004). Reports of 
traditional probation are around $1,000 per 
participant. Mark A. R. Kleiman, When Brute 
Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less 
Punishment (Princeton University Press, 2009); 
Mark Kleiman, “Smarter Punishment, Less 
Crime: Why reducing incarceration and 
victimization should be complementary goals,” 
The American Prospect, December 6, 2010. 

 
 

per  person§  and  carry  with  them 
potentially  harsher  sanctions  and 
requirements. 
Treatment 
services 
in 
the 
community:  If  less  was  spent  on 
resource‐intensive 
drug 
courts, 
treatment  funding  could  increase  to 
serve  the  already  large  numbers  of 

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

13

than 2.5 percent of all substance abuse 
and  addiction  spending  is  for 
prevention,  treatment  and  research, 
which  shows  a  focus  on  addressing 
the  consequences  of  substance  abuse 
rather  than  prevention  and  harm 
reduction. 
 
Attention  and  funds  directed  at  drug 
courts  exemplify  a  continued  reliance  on 
the  criminal  justice  system  as  a  way  to 
address  a  public  health  problem.  Drug 
courts  only  reduce  incarceration  of  and 
provide  treatment  to  people  who  already 
are  in  contact  with  the  justice  system,  doing 
nothing  to  help  people  avoid  addiction‐
related  criminal  justice  contact  in  the  first 
place. 
 
Reforms  in  these  areas  could  drastically 
reduce  the  number  of  people  in  prison, 
while  improving  public  safety  and  the 
health  of  communities.  But  to  accomplish 
these  reforms,  public  officials  must 
prioritize  funding  for  them;  and  in  times 
of  limited  resources,  this  may  mean 
reducing funding for drug courts.  

people  under  justice  supervision  who 
need  but  do  not  receive  treatment, 
and  for  those  in  the  community  who 
are  currently  not  able  to  receive 
treatment  due  to  inadequate  funding 
of  services  for  people  with  limited 
financial  or  insurance  resources. 
Research  presented  in  this  report 
shows that treatment services are a far 
more  cost‐effective  way  of  improving 
public safety, reducing the number of 
people  in  prison,  and  improving  life 
outcomes. 
Prevention  and  research:  While  it  is 
difficult  to  separate  out  spending  by 
substance  because  people  often  use 
substances  together,  the  National 
Center  on  Addiction  and  Substance 
Abuse  at  Columbia  University 
estimated  total  government  spending 
on  drug  use,  excluding  alcohol  and 
tobacco,  was  estimated  at  around 
$18.7  billion  in  2005—$16.4  billion  in 
federal  spending,  $1.9  billion  in  state 
and  $342  million  in  local  health  care 
spending.36  This  includes  $40  million 
in federal spending and $138 million 
in state spending on drug courts. Less 

 

Spending on Substance Abuse and Addiction
State Spending
Budget Sector
$ in
Millions
Burden*
Taxation/Regulation/Interdiction
Prevention/Treatment/Research

$127,545
$4,984
$3,235

% of
substancerelated
spending
94.0%
3.7%
2.4%

Federal Spending

$ in
Millions
$229,887
2,720
5,543

% of
substancerelated
spending
96.5%
1.13%
2.3%

*Includes spending in health, child/family/housing assistance, public safety, justice, primary/secondary
education, mental health, developmental disabilities and workforce.
Source: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Shoveling Up II:
The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets (New York, NY: 2009)

 
 

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Drug court money is spent on
people who least benefit.

potentially  subject  to  the  collateral 
consequences of a conviction. Some of the 
more  prominent  of  these  consequences 
include  loss  of  food  stamp  benefits, 
decreased  opportunities 
 
for  student  loans  and 
employment, and denial 
of  public  housing,  all  of 
which  increase  the 
chances  that  a  person 
will  not  be  able  to 
successfully  stay  out  of 
prison  in  the  future.  In 
addition,  sanctions  for  to use jail as a
violating  drug  court 
sanction for a
rules,  like  failing  drug 
relapse while in drug
tests, can send people to 
court
jail.  Finally,  failing  to 
successfully  complete 
the drug court program can mean a prison 
sentence, which in turn has been shown to 
be  counterproductive  to  both  individual 
recovery and improved public safety. 

For people who would be prison‐bound if 
not for entering drug court, savings can be 
considerable—annual costs of sending one 
person  to  prison  average  $22,650,37 
compared  to  an  average  of  $4,300  per 
person  for  a  year  of  drug  court.38  If 
everyone who entered drug court was not 
given  a  jail  sanction,  successfully 
completed  the  drug  court  program,  and 
went on to become a law‐abiding resident, 
drug  courts  would  be  one  of  the  most 
cost‐effective  means  of  working  with 
people  with  drug  problems  who  are 
involved  in  the  criminal  justice  system. 
But this is not the case: 
 
 Not  everyone  who  is  offered  and 
accepts  drug  court  would  otherwise 
have  gone  to  prison.  (See  section 
below  on  selection  of  drug  court 
participants) 
 In some courts, the average number of 
days spent in jail as sanctioned by the 
drug court judge can be as high as 50 
or  more,39  at  an  average  cost  of 
around $68 per day.40 
 Only  a  fraction  of  people  who  enter 
drug  court  will  successfully  complete 
it.  From  33  to  75  percent  of 
participants will be kicked out of drug 
court41  and  be  sentenced  for  the 
original  offense,  frequently  more 
harshly  than  they  would  have  if  they 
had never attempted drug court.42 
 
Compounding  the  total  cost  of  drug 
courts  is  that  people  who  could  have 
accessed  treatment  in  the  community  or 
diversion  program,  for  example,  are 

$68

Average
cost per day

 

Drug courts do not provide
the best public safety value.
For  those  who  do  complete  drug  court,  a 
number  of  studies  have  shown  cost‐
benefits,  but  not  necessarily  the  most 
benefits  per  dollar  when  compared  to 
alternatives.  The  Washington  State 
Institute  for  Public  Policy  conducted  a 
cost  benefit  analysis  of  certain  drug 
treatment  programs,  including  drug 
courts,  drug  treatment  in  the  community 
and treatment in prison (either therapeutic 
community  or  outpatient).43  This  analysis 
considered a number of studies to develop 
an average cost‐benefit analysis, including 
a  review  of  57  studies  on  drug  courts. 
They  found  that  all  three  of  these 

 
 

14

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15

Treatment in the community is about 10
times more cost-effective than drug
courts; it costs considerably less and is
almost equally as effective as drug courts
in reducing recidivism.

treatment types can reduce recidivism and 
are  cost  effective—that  is,  the  benefits 
outweigh the costs. But drug treatment in 
the  community  was  by  far  the  most  cost‐
effective. 
 
Researchers  found  that  drug  treatment  in 
the  community  can  reduce  recidivism  by 
8.3 percent and produces $21 in benefits to 
victims and taxpayers in terms of reduced 
crime  for  every  dollar  spent.44  Drug 
treatment  in  prison  produced  only  $7.74 
in benefits, and drug courts less than $2 in 
benefits  for  every  dollar  spent.  In  other 
words,  treatment  in  the  community  is 
about  10  times  more  cost‐effective  than 

drug courts; it costs considerably less and 
is  almost  equally  as  effective  as  drug 
courts in reducing recidivism. In addition, 
treatment in the community allows people 
to  stay  with  their  families  and  contribute 
to  their  communities  while  also  having 
more  lifetime  earnings—and  therefore 
paying  more  taxes—than  if  they  had 
received a conviction.45 
 

 

Drug treatment in the community yields the greatest
public benefit per dollar spent.
Benefits per one dollar spent

$25
$20.16
$20
$15
$10

$7.74

$5

$2.59

$1.91

$Drug treatment in
community

Drug treatment in Intensive Supervision: Adult drug courts
prison*
Treatment-oriented programs

*Therapeutic communities or outpatient
Sources: Elizabeth K. Drake, Steve Aos, and Marna G. Miller, “Evidence-Based Public Policy Options
to Reduce Crime and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State,” Victims and Offenders,
4:170–196. Table 1, www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/09-00-1201.pdf

 

 

 
 

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DRUG COURTS WIDEN THE
CRIMINAL JUSTICE CONTROL.

NET

16

OF

 

Despite drug courts’ intention of being an alternative to incarceration for
people with substance abuse problems, even the existence of a drug
court can bring more people into the criminal justice system.  
 

addiction  who  may  not  be  receiving 
treatment in the community.  

At  their  inception,  drug  courts  were 
reserved for people who were arrested for 
a drug offense, or for a minor offense that 
may  be  a  result  of  their  addiction.  Before 
drug  courts,  people  may  have  had  their 
case dropped or diverted to a community 
treatment  program,  but  now  judges  and 
prosecutors have a criminal justice option, 
and may be more likely to use it in lieu of 
treatment  referrals  that  come  without  the 
added  burden  of  entanglement  in  the 
justice  system.46  People  who  usually 
qualify  for  drug  court—those  with  low‐
level  and  nonviolent  offenses—are 
frequently  the  same  people  who  would 
otherwise  receive  short  prison  sentences 
or  probation,  frequently  less  daunting 
than a stint in drug court.47 
 
As  an  example,  Judge Morris  B. Hoffman 
at  the  Denver  District  Court  found  that 
the number of drug filings increased three 
times  in  the  two  years  following  the 
implementation of drug court.48 Not all of 
the  people  charged  entered  drug  court, 
but  the  number  of  drug  admissions  to 
prison  doubled.  This  program  was 
designed  to  reduce  incarceration, 
especially  for  people  with  drug  offenses; 
but  instead  the  number  of  people  with 
drug  offenses  going  to  prison  doubled. 
This example shows that law enforcement 
may be using potential access to treatment 
as  a  reason  to  arrest  people  with  drug 

“It is clear that the very
presence of drug courts
is causing police to make arrests in, and
prosecutors to file, the kinds of ten- and
twenty dollar hand-to-hand drug cases
that the system simply would not have
bothered with before.”
Judge Morris B. Hoffman

Arresting  more  people  for  low‐level, 
nonviolent  offenses  or  drug  offenses  will 
result  in  more  people  ensnared  in  the 
justice system, regardless of whether they 
participate  in  drug  courts.  More  arrests 
can  lead  to  more  convictions  and  more 
incarceration,  dramatically  increasing 
costs associated with the justice system, as 
well as the social costs on individuals and 
communities  associated  with  criminal 
justice involvement.49 
 
With short‐term detention as one sanction 
for non‐compliance, drug courts also carry 
the  potential  to  increase  administrative 
and  detention  costs  for  local  jails.  These 
incarcerative sanctions may lead people to 
spend  more  time  in  jail  than  they  would 
have  if  they’d  received  a  traditional 
sentence,50  especially  since  so  many 
people  in  drug  courts  are  charged  with 
low‐level  offenses.  One  Santa  Clara, 

 
 

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completion.  The  analysis  found  no 
differences  in  retention  or  completion 
between  the  two  courts,  concluding  that 

California drug court reported that people 
who  completed  the  drug  court  program 
spent  an  average  of  51  days  in  jail.51  In 
Baltimore,  Maryland,  participants  spent 
an  average  of  55  days  in  jail  for 
noncompliance.52  
 
While  the  use  of  jail  sanctions  to  instill 
compliance in drug courts is common, it is 
not  necessarily  effective.  One  study 
compared two Maricopa County, Arizona 
drug 
court 
programs—one 
that 
threatened  legal  sanctions  like  jail  time 
and  the  other  that  was  prohibited  from 
using  jail  sanctions—to  examine  the 
effects  on  program  retention  and 
 

“Ultimately, when drug
courts imprison failing
participants, they punish them not
for their underlying crimes, but
for their inability to get with the
program.” Josh Bowers, University of
Chicago Law School
the  threat  of  jail  as  a  legal  sanction  may 
not  be  an  effective  way  in  which  to 
motivate participants’ compliance.53 

 

“There is no evidence for the efficacy of jail sanctions.
Although there is research evidence supportive of drug courts in general,
the use of jail time as a ‘sanction’ to enforce treatment compliance is not
supported. Drug courts around the nation have been using this tool for
over 15 years, yet not a single study isolates the impact of jail sanctions in
generating improved treatment outcomes.”
The California Society of Addiction Medicine 

 
 

17

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18

Emerging Specialty Courts
Due to the popularity of drug courts, many states and localities have expanded on this model to
address other social issues experienced by people involved in the justice system. The
emergence of “specialty” or “problem solving” courts are meant to tailor the courts to specific
issues with the aim of providing better and more fair treatment to people who come before the
court. Here are some of the current specialty courts in place around the country.
Tribal Healing and Wellness Court
A component of the tribal justice system, the Tribal Healing and Wellness Courts were created
to address alcohol and drug misuse in tribal communities. It is based on the traditional drug
court model, but is tailored to the unique needs of the tribal community and incorporate culture
and tradition. The court is comprised of justice officials, as well as tribal elders and traditional
healers to allow for a tribe-specific approach to treatment that addresses community needs and
tribal customs.54 Eighteen states currently offer these courts.55
Reentry Court
Started in 2000 by the Office of Justice Programs’ Reentry Court Initiative, reentry drug courts
were created to aid the unique process of moving from prison into the community. The program
generally includes people released on parole who have been specifically selected for the
program as a condition of their release, but some participants are compelled to participate by
sentence or court order. In addition to court monitoring of participants, the reentry court is
sometimes combined with the drug court to provide treatment services as well as other social
services like helping people find jobs and housing.56
DWI Court
A post-conviction court system, the DWI court works with people who have multiple driving while
impaired (DWI) convictions. Participants are provided with an inpatient or outpatient drug
treatment program while being monitored by the court with both home and field visits.
Frequently, Alcoholics Anonymous meeting attendance is also required in addition to counseling
through the courts and urinalysis and blood alcohol content (BAC) testing.57 According to the
National Association of Drug Court Professionals, as of December 2009, there were 172
designated DWI Courts and another 354 Hybrid DWI/Drug Courts in operation—a Hybrid
DWI/Drug Court is one that started out as a Drug Court that now also takes people convicted of
DWIs—bringing the total number of specialized courts working with people convicted of DWIs to
526.58
Juvenile Drugs Court
The juvenile drug court is a special docket within a juvenile court that is assigned to a
designated judge and involves intensive treatment and supervision services for youth with
delinquency or status offenses who are considered drug-involved. Service areas include
substance abuse treatment, mental health, primary care, family, and education. A team is
assembled by the court and assigned to determine the best ways to address the problems of
the youth and his or her family.59
Family Dependency Treatment Court (Family Drug Court)
Family dependency treatment court is a specific docket within a juvenile or family court that
includes selected cases of child abuse or neglect related to parental substance abuse. The
 
 

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19

justice system partners with Child Protective Services and treatment personnel in order to
ensure the safety of the children and provide parents the appropriate and necessary substance
abuse treatment.60
Veterans Treatment Court
The Veteran Treatment Court is a hybrid of drug and mental health courts, designed to address
the rising number of veterans struggling with addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders
appearing in the justice system, most of whom have experienced combat-related trauma. The
court program provides participants with treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health
issues while also partnering with local Veterans Affairs offices to connect the veterans with
available benefits.61 Twenty-one states currently offer veterans courts. See text box on page
25 for further information on veterans courts.
Mental Health Court
Mental health courts were created in response to the overrepresentation of persons with mental
illness in the justice system. The court is currently an all voluntary program that diverts selected
people who have undergone a specialized screening and been found to have a mental illness.
Mental health courts place participants into a court-supervised program where they receive
treatment and case management while being monitored by the court.62
Community Court
The community courts deal with quality of life crimes within a community, such as prostitution,
vandalism, or petty theft. The court was created with the goal of addressing the underlying
reasons for the participant’s behavior, while also having the damage of the crime compensated.
Persons involved in the court are sentenced to community service in order to pay back the
community while also being offered social services such as drug and mental health treatment. In
the community court, more than just court officials are involved—entire communities become
involved in the justice system to find the best way to hold the person accountable, but ensure
positive life outcomes.63
Domestic Violence Court
The domestic violence court has been designed to address the issues that have been
associated with domestic violence crimes. The court cooperates with social services to ensure
protection and support is offered to the victim of the domestic violence. Court monitoring of
participants is also a part of the court, used to ensure protective orders and treatments are
being followed.64
Gambling Court
Gambling court operates though existing drug courts, selecting specific cases involving people
who have a pending criminal charge and suffer from pathological or compulsive gambling
disorders that may have resulted in illegal activity. Participants engage in judicially supervised
treatment though a multitude of services such as Gamblers Anonymous, debt counseling, and if
necessary drug or alcohol treatment, and more.65
Truancy Court
Truancy courts are designed to identify and assist with the underlying causes of truancy
occurring in a child’s life. These courts take place either on school grounds or as a part of a
special court docket within the juvenile court. Weekly progress reports are submitted regarding
the child’s progress that the court reviews to decide what services need to be provided such as
counseling or special testing.66
 
 

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20

Prostitution Court
Prostitution courts address the unique needs of people engaged in illegal prostitution or
solicitation. These courts work to help people make changes in their lives through supervision
by the courts, case management, social services and mental health or substance abuse
treatment, if needed. Prostitution courts have been initiated in Baltimore, Maryland, Cook
County, Illinois and Dallas, Texas and continue to expand across the country.
Homelessness Court
Homelessness courts work with people who are homeless who were arrested for mostly
nonviolent, public order offenses like littering, jaywalking, trespassing, sleeping on park benches
and warrants related to arrests for these offenses. Participants may be asked to participate in
substance abuse or mental health treatment, if needed, and in job training or other programs
that are meant to benefit the participant.67
Back on TRAC: Treatment, Responsibility, Accountability on Campus
First piloted in 2006 at Colorado State University, Back on TRAC: Treatment, Responsibility,
and Accountability on Campus is a national initiative that partners higher education with the
judicial system. The program redesigns existing college campus drug programs to take after the
drug court model. Back on TRAC is targeted at college students using illegal substances who
have come to the attention of the university, giving them the opportunity to voluntarily enter the
program or face traditional consequences. Tailored to specifically cater to the college
environment, the program incorporates drug treatment and compliance monitoring while
avoiding a disturbance to the students’ education.68

Specialty courts have been growing in numbers over the past few
years. Today there are around 1,219 specialty courts and 2,559 drug
courts in the U.S.
Adult Drug Treatment
Courts
Juvenile Drug Courts
Family Drug Courts
Designated DWI Courts
Reentry Courts
Tribal Healing and Wellness
Campus Courts
Federal District drug courts
Total

12/31/2004

12/31/2005

12/31/2006

12/31/2007

811

985

1,115

1,174

357
153
176
68
54
1
1
1,621

386
196
74
44
65
1
4
1,756

408
229
81
20
67
1
5
1,926

455
301
110
24
72
6
5
2,147

Source: C. West Huddleston, III, Douglas B. Marlowe, and Rachel Casebolt, Painting the Current
Picture: A National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Court Programs in the
United States, Volume II, Number 1 (Washington, D.C.: National Drug Court Institute, May 2008)
www.ndci.org/sites/default/files/ndci/PCPII1_web%5B1%5D.pdf; Analysis of NADCP Drug Court
Map, accessed January 2011, www.nadcp.org/learn/find-drug-court
 

 
 

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21

DRUG COURTS DO NOT TREAT EVERYONE
EQUALLY.
 

Many drug courts, especially those that receive federal funding,69 do
not accept people with violent offenses, or with any criminal history,70
accepting instead people with “lesser” offenses or “first-time offenders.”
Drug courts “cherry pick.”

African  Americans  are  30  percent  more 
likely than whites to be dropped from the 
program.77   
 
 
A 
driving 
force 
behind 
“cherry 
picking” is the need to 
show  success.  If  a 
program 
doesn’t 
work,  it  may  be 
defunded.  By  picking 
the  easier  cases—
people  without  prior 
or  significant  criminal 
records  and  with  who are at risk of
lesser  addictions78—
substance abuse
courts  are  able  to 
ensure  more  success  will qualify for
and  continuation  of  drug court
the  program.79  As 
people  with  the  fewest  previous 
convictions80  and  those  with  “lesser” 
addictions81 are the most likely to succeed, 
the number of graduates and success rates 
look  better  for  courts  that  focus  on  this 
population.  This  leaves  the  people  who 
may benefit most from drug court without 
access  to  treatment  to  help  them  live  a 
successful life. If courts accept people with 
more challenging situations or addictions, 
they  will  have  to  adjust  their 
requirements,  treatment  options  and 
sanctions  to  best  meet  their  needs.

Drug  courts  that  receive  federal 
discretionary  grants  are  required  to  focus 
on  people  accused  of  nonviolent  offenses 
and  those  without  a  violent  record.71  Yet 
research  shows  that  drug  courts  have  the 
greatest benefit for people who have more 
prior  felony  convictions  and  have 
previously failed other dispositions.72 The 
Urban  Institute’s  Justice  Policy  Center 
estimated  that  of  the  1.5  million  people 
arrested for a drug offense who are at risk 
of  substance  abuse  or  dependence,  just 
over  109,900—about  7  percent—met 
current  eligibility  requirements  for  drug 
court,  and  only  about  half  were  enrolled 
in  a  drug  court  program.73  Note  that  not 
everyone  arrested  for a  drug  offense  uses 
or  abuses  drugs,  and  treatment  may  not 
be  an  appropriate  option  for  everyone 
arrested for a drug offense. 
 
Since  people  of  color  are  more  likely  to 
have a felony conviction on their record at 
the  time  of  an  arrest  related  to  drug 
abuse,74  they  are  more  likely  to  be 
excluded  from  consideration  for  drug 
court  participation.  There  is  also  some 
evidence  that  sanctions  are  higher  for 
people  of  color  who  violate  the  rules  of 
the drug court program,75 and that African 
Americans are less likely to graduate from 
drug  court  than  whites76—in  some  courts 

Only
7%

of people
arrested for a
drug offense

 

 
 

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22

New Jersey Drug Courts:
Alternatives to Incarceration for People who are Prison-Bound
New Jersey has shown that there is an alternative way to manage drug courts so that they don’t
“net-widen,” and instead concentrate on reducing incarceration. In 1997, with the aid of federal
grants, New Jersey established a Drug Court Initiative in Camden, Mercer and Passaic
counties. Using New Jersey Statute 2C:35-1482 as a guideline for drug court eligibility, any
person who is ineligible for probation due to a conviction for a crime that is subject to a
presumption of incarceration or a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility may be
sentenced to a term of “special probation” for a term of five years in accordance with this
statute. A person who is not prison-bound but fits specific criteria, including drug or alcohol
dependence, no history of a violent offense, and not deemed a risk to society if placed in
treatment, may also be eligible for drug court. People who violate probation or receive a new
offense while on probation may also be eligible. In 2008, restrictions on eligibility for people who
have been convicted of two or more prior offenses were amended to allow more flexibility in
admissions.
Aside from the unique eligibility requirements that focus more on people who are prison-bound
and less on those who may be eligible for just probation, the New Jersey drug courts typically
run in the same way as other drug courts around the country—though some may argue that they
require more work than typical drug court programs. The courts require a guilty plea for
participation and do not offer expungement of records after successful completion, and people
are on probation for three to five years. Originally, participants were required to participate in a
minimum six-month period of residential treatment; however, in August 2008, the statute was
amended to allow judges to decide the appropriate treatment response based on the needs of
the individual, and the five-year supervision requirement was amended to permit judges to
release people early who had done well in the program.
Since 2002, New Jersey drug courts have enrolled over 9,000 participants, with a retention rate*
of about 59 percent.83 As of June 2010, the drug court program had graduated 1,307
participants and terminated 3,255. More than 87 percent of graduates were employed at the
time of graduation and graduates had a re-arrest rate of 16 percent and a re-incarceration rate
of 4 percent.
New Jersey receives the highest level of annual state funding for adult drug courts of any state
in the nation—more than $21million was appropriated for drug courts in FY2006.84 The average
annual cost for active drug court participants in New Jersey is approximately $11,379. Starting
in 2001, funding for drug treatment through these courts is channeled through the Division of
Addiction Services, rather than the courts and the Department of Corrections.85
 
*Retention rates are calculated by the number of new admissions divided by the number of graduates and active
cases.

 
 

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People of color and those of
lower income are more likely
to be kicked out of drug court.
A  number  of  studies  have  examined  the 
social and demographic factors associated 
with  success  or  failure  in  drug  court.86 
Most  studies  say  that  people  with  more 
resources  are  more  likely  to  succeed  in 
drug  court87  and  that  those  who  are 
unemployed88 or under‐educated89 tend to 
do worse.  

“The most likely treatment failures
are genuine addicts and members of
historically
disadvantaged
groups,
who
thereafter receive harsh termination sentences
that often outstrip conventional plea prices.”
Josh Bowers, University of Chicago Law School
Studies also found that age correlates with 
drug court retention—those who are older 
do  better.90  A  report  from  the  Urban 
Institute found that the oldest participants 
have  the  best  outcomes.91  These  findings 
may  have  further  implications  for  youth 
who  participate  in  juvenile  drug  courts 

23

rather  than  receiving  community‐based 
treatment. The same study from the Urban 
Institute also found  that  whites  have lower 
rates  of  recidivism  after  graduating  from  a 
drug  court  program  than  people  of  color,92 
indicating that race may also be a factor in 
successful  completion  of  drug  court, 
although  this  may  be  more  related  to 
social factors than race or ethnicity.93  
 
One  of  the  reasons  why  people  of  color 
and  those  from  poorer  communities  may 
be  less  likely  to  be  accepted  into  drug 
court  or  successfully  complete  drug  court 
is  their  increased  likelihood  of  being 
arrested,94  which  can  lead  to  program 
termination.95  People  from  poorer 
communities  and  communities  of  color 
are  more  likely  to  be  under  some  sort  of 
police  surveillance,  whether  they  are 
under  criminal  justice  control  or  not.96 
This  increased  surveillance  can  lead  to 
more  arrests  and  dismissal  from  drug 
court. 
 

 

Are Specialty Courts Creating Two Systems of Justice:
One for the “Deserving” and One for All Others?
“Each of these courts – termed ‘boutique courts’ by the more cynical among us – is touted as a new
innovation in therapeutic jurisprudence, and evaluations are being done to assess their impact in
relation to more standard case processing for these populations. At a broad level, they can be seen
as structural attempts to infuse more discretion back into a justice system that has been
systematically stripped of it during the preceding decades. What is most interesting, however, is that
the courts are being established for groups of individuals who are seen as ‘deserving’ of better
processing and more individualized attention from the justice system. Individuals with substance
use problems or mental health disorders can be assumed to be less ‘criminal’ than others who might
have done the same illegal act. Veterans ‘deserve’ more careful and helpful treatment by the courts
because of the sacrifices they have endured and the government’s role in creating many of the
situations that might have increased their chances of involvement in crime… Although we see these
approaches as modern, they are in many ways an extension of our long standing pattern, from the
Elizabethan Poor Laws forward, of linking the provision of services to moral standing; to separate
out the morally ‘deserving’ from the ‘undeserving’ and to distribute resources and punishment
accordingly.”
Edward P. Mulvey, Presidential Address, American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41, Vancouver, BC.
 
March 20, 2010

 

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Bad things happen when
people are kicked out of drug
court.

discriminated  against  in  the  work  place, 
and often face housing discrimination and 
loss  of  public  benefits.99  Students  who 
receive  a  drug  conviction  can  be  barred 
from  receiving  federal  financial  aid  for 
their  education.100  People  who  are  kicked 
out  of  a  post‐plea  drug  court  will  be 
convicted on the original offense and face 
a number of these collateral consequences. 

Despite  some  notable  successes  in  drug 
court,  the  vast  majority  of  drug  courts 
have  high  failure  rates—most  of  the 
people  who  start  drug  court  do  not 
successfully  complete  it.  A  study  by  the 
Government  Accountability  Office  found 
that drug court graduation rates generally 
range from about one in four to about two 
in  three.97  While  graduating  from  a  drug 
court may result in an expungement—but 
not  overall  deletion—of  a  criminal 
conviction,  failing  drug  court  leads  to 
both  a  criminal  conviction  and  possibly  a 
harsher  sentence—including  a  possible 
prison  sentence—than  a  participant 
would  have  received  had  he  not 
attempted and failed drug court.98 

 

Harsher sentences
Research  and  personal  accounts  of  drug 
court participants and their lawyers show 
that  many  people  who  fail  drug  courts 
receive  harsher  sentences  from  judges 
than  they  would  have  originally  received 
if  they’d  never  tried  and  failed  at  drug 
court.101  Although  very  few  studies 
compare  the  outcomes  of  drug  court 
participants  who  fail  to  people 
traditionally adjudicated,102 evidence from 
some  drug  courts  suggests  that  people 
who  fail  drug  courts  receive  longer 
sentences—in some cases even two to five 
times  longer—than  people  who  never 
attempted drug court.103 

 

Collateral consequences of
conviction
Having  a  felony  conviction  on  your 
record, whether it is for a drug offense or 
other  offense,  can  be  extremely 
detrimental  to  a  person’s  future.  People 
with  criminal  records  are  frequently 

“Drug courts see addicts as sick patients
and their crimes as symptomatic of illness
only as long as participants respond to care… addiction
controls addicts’ behavior at the time of the crime (at least
to a degree), and addicts therefore deserve less
punishment and more rehabilitation; but addicts control
their addictions at the time of treatment, and they therefore
deserve greater punishment if they fail to exercise
control.”
Josh Bowers, University of Chicago Law School

 
 

24

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25

Veteran Courts:
Helping or Hurting our Heroes?
The U.S. has over 23 million veterans of armed services, including 1.64 million and counting
from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.104 As of 2004, the most recent year available,
around 140,000 people in prison reported serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, 99 percent of
whom are men.105 About 20 percent of veterans in state prisons and 26 percent in federal
prisons reported seeing combat duty. About a third of veterans in state prisons were “first-time
offenders” and more than half (57 percent) were incarcerated for a violent offense. Just over half
of both combat and noncombat veterans reported a history of mental health problems, and 55
percent of veterans in state prisons reported ever receiving treatment for substance abuse.
Recognizing the high number of people with veteran status coming before the courts, and the
unique challenges of working with people in the justice system who are veterans and may have
seen combat that led to their mental health or substance abuse problems, Judge Robert Russell
created the first Veterans Treatment Court in 2008.106 The veterans treatment court is a hybrid
between drug and mental health courts, designed to address the rising number of veterans
struggling with addiction, mental illness (including PTSD from combat), or co-occurring
disorders appearing in the justice system. The court program provides participants with
treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health issues while also partnering with local
Veterans Affairs offices to connect the veterans with available benefits, veteran mentors and
support groups. Twenty-one states currently offer veterans courts.107
The majority of these courts require a guilty plea and focus on people charged with nonviolent
offenses,108 although some courts are expanding to include domestic violence cases. In this
way, the courts, while trying to specialize in helping a specific group of people, still have the
consequences of other forms of drug courts, including a criminal conviction, even if they
complete the program; sanctions for not following the rules of the program, including
incarceration; and traditional sentencing if the veteran fails to complete the program. Many
veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan wars may be opting out of drug courts for the same reasons
that others opt out—because the requirements are so burdensome that they would rather serve
a short time in jail or prison. In addition, the stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis
that sometimes comes with participation in veterans courts can not only lead to challenges
within the military community,109 but also when searching for employment during and after the
program.
While veterans courts appear to be a step in the right direction in working with people who have
served our country through the military, these courts may not be the best or most effective
option for working with people, and may even widen the net of people involved in the justice
system. More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of these programs on working
with people and keeping them out of the justice system in the future. In addition, with growing
numbers of service members and veterans coming from communities of color, the racial impact
of veterans courts—and all drug courts—should be examined further to ensure that people are
being treated fairly.

 
 

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26

RECOMMENDATIONS
 
The research and data show that providing treatment in the community has better outcomes and is more 
cost‐effective than treatment in the criminal justice system for people with addictions. Expanding access 
to treatment outside the justice system to people who need it can help increase public safety, save money 
and improve life outcomes for individuals. Policymakers should expand treatment services through the 
public health system so people can get the help they need without having to be arrested. Changing the 
way  we  think  about  drug  use  and  drug  policies  that  bring  so  many  people  into  the  justice  system  can 
have a positive and lasting impact on individuals, families and communities. 
 
Invest  in  front‐end  treatment  and  services.  Providing  treatment  in  the  community  before  a  person 
becomes  involved  in  the  criminal  justice  system  can  be  an  effective  way  to  defeat  a  problem  before  it 
starts.  Community‐based  treatment  is  truly  an  investment  in  public  safety,  one  that  will  reduce 
incarceration and its economic and social costs. 
 
Implement “real” diversion policies and alternatives to incarceration. Largely as a result of increasing 
prison  and  jail  populations,  states  and  localities  across  the  country  created  or  are  in  the  process  of 
implementing  diversion  programs  that  keep  people—mostly  those  convicted  of  low‐level  and  drug 
offenses—out of jail and prison. 
 California  has  been  using  these  programs  for  a  decade  through  the  Proposition  36  program, 
which diverts people with first‐ and second‐time drug offenses to treatment rather than prison.110 
Prop. 36 participants have outcomes similar to drug court participants and the program has been 
shown  to  save  an  estimated  $2,861  per  participant,  while  having  no  adverse  effects  on  public 
safety. 
 South  Carolina  passed  a  bill  last  year  authorizing  probation  and  other  alternatives  to 
incarceration  for  people  convicted  of  a  first  or  second  time  drug  offenses.111  The  package  is 
estimated  to  save  $350  million,  the  cost  of  building  a  new  prison  which  would  otherwise  be 
necessary.112 
 Hawaii  passed  a  bill  a  few  years  ago  that  created  diversion  programs  for  people  convicted  of 
first‐time, nonviolent drug offenses, and was also made treatment available for people convicted 
of  first‐time,  nonviolent  property  offenses  whose  offense  was  considered  a  result  of  a  drug 
problem.113 A person sentenced under this law may petition for expungement of their record after 
successful completion of treatment and probation. 
 Colorado  passed  a  bill  last  year  emphasizing  diversion  to  substance  abuse  and  mental  health 
treatment for people charged with low‐level drug possession.114 
 Texas has been making a number of reforms in recent years, including a bill in 2003 that required 
that  all  people  convicted  of  drug  possession  with  less  than  a  gram  of  drugs  be  sentenced  to 
probation  instead  of  incarceration.115  In  2007,  the  state’s  budget  allocated  $241  million  for 
residential  and  non‐residential  treatment‐oriented  programs  for  people  convicted  of  nonviolent 
offenses, along with enhancing in‐prison treatment programs.116 
 

 
 

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27

Collect better data on drug courts. National level data on drug court participation and success is hard to 
come by, making national evaluations of the effectiveness of drug court difficult to measure. More data 
can  lead  to  better  evaluations  and  recommendations  for  best  practices  in  drug  court,  and  provide 
policymakers with information necessary to choose where to spend scarce funds. 
 
Focus  court  treatment  programs  on  those  who  would  have  gone  to  prison.  If  a  person  would  have 
received a prison sentence, then a drug court program can act as a true diversion, saving the state money 
and  protecting  public  safety  through  a  more  intensive  period  that  includes  both  treatment  and 
supervision. 
 
Evaluate  current  drug  court  policies  and  practices.  Drug  court  administrators  should  continuously 
evaluate  policies  on  participant  eligibility  that  may  lead  to  “cherry  picking”  and  practices  that  lead  to 
higher  failure  rates  for  certain  groups,  especially  those  with  lower  income  or  people  of  color.  More 
evaluation will lead to more fair and effective programs. 

 
 
 

ADDITIONAL READING
 
For additional information on drug treatment courts, please visit the following reports:  
 
Drug Policy Alliance, Drug Courts Are Not the Answer: Toward A Health‐Centered Approach to Drug Use 
(2011). www.drugpolicy.org 
 
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, America’s Problem‐Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs 
of Treatment and the Case for Reform (Washington, D.C.: 2009) www.nacdl.org/drugcourts  
 
The Sentencing Project, Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence 
(Washington, D.C.: 2009). http://sentencingproject.org/doc/dp_drugcourts.pdf  
 
Vera Institute of Justice, Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, Do Drug Courts Save Jail and Prison Beds? 
(New York, NY: 2000). www.vera.org/download?file=267/IIB%2BDrug%2Bcourts.pdfNACDL 
 

 
 

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28

About the Justice Policy Institute
Justice  Policy  Institute  is  a  national  organization  focused  on  reducing  the  use  of  incarceration  and  the 
justice system and promoting healthy, equitable and safe communities. 
 

About the author
Nastassia  Walsh  is  a  research  associate  at  the  Justice  Policy  Institute.  In  her  five  years  working  for  JPI, 
Walsh  has  had  the  opportunity  to  work  on  a  number  of  different  collaborations  and  projects,  both 
nationally and in states. She has presented on the issue of drug courts at the 2009 International Drug Policy 
Reform Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico and at New Directions: A Public Health and Safety Approach 
to Drug Policy in Washington, D.C. Walsh joined JPI shortly after earning her Masterʹs Degree in forensic 
psychology  from  Marymount  University,  where  she  studied  psychological  principles  in  the  law  and 
injustices  in  the  criminal  justice  system.  She  also  holds  a  Bachelor  of  Science  degree  in  psychology and 
justice studies from Arizona State University.  
 

Acknowledgements
This report would not have been possible without the generous support of the Open Society Institute and 
the Public Welfare Foundation.  
 
JPI greatly appreciates the input and expertise of Margaret Dooley‐Sammuli, Drug Policy Alliance; Tim 
Murray, Pretrial Justice Institute; Bruce Stout, The College of New Jersey; and Guy Gambill, Soros Justice 
Fellow. 
 
JPI  staff  includes  Paul  Ashton,  Jason  Fenster,  Zerline  Hughes,  Amanda  Petteruti,  Kellie  Shaw,  Tracy 
Velázquez and Keith Wallington. Research interns Brad Merrin, Elisabeth Mulholland, Jessica Oxley and 
Andrew Price provided indispensible assistance to the research, writing and dissemination process of this 
report.  

 
 

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29

                                                            
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey of Drug Use and Health 2009 
Results (Washington, D.C.: Office of Applied Studies, 2010) 
www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k9NSDUH/2k9Results.htm 
2 American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/cancer‐prevalence 
3 Alan I. Leshner, “Addiction is a Brain Disease,” Science 278 (1997): 5335 
4 FBI, Uniform Crime Report, Crime in the United States, 2009 (Washington, D.C.: FBI, 2010)  Table 29, 
www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/arrests/index.html 
5 Heather C. West, William J. Sabol, and Sarah J. Greenman, Prisoners in 2009, Table 10 (Washington, D.C.: 
Department of Justice, 2010) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p09.pdf 
6 A.S. Bhati, J.K. Roman, and A. Chalfin, To Treat or Not to Treat: Evidence on the Prospects of Expanding Treatment 
to Drug‐Involved Offenders (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, 2008). 
www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411645_treatment_offenders.pdf 
7 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Key Facts at a Glance: The number of adults in the correctional population has been 
increasing (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, Accessed February 2011) 
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/corr2.cfm 
8 Drug Courts: The Second Decade (Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, 2006) 
www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/211081.pdf 
9 National Association of Drug Court Professionals, About NADCP, Accessed February 2011. 
www.nadcp.org/learn/about‐nadcp 
10 Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence (Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing 
Project, 2009). http://sentencingproject.org/doc/dp_drugcourts.pdf 
11 C. West Huddleston, III, Douglas B. Marlowe,  and Rachel Casebolt, Painting the Current Picture: A National 
Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem‐Solving Court Programs in the United States, Volume II, Number 1 
(Washington, D.C.: National Drug Court Institute, May 2008) 
www.ndci.org/sites/default/files/ndci/PCPII1_web%5B1%5D.pdf, pages 4‐5 
12 National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components (Washington, 
D.C.: NADCP, January 1997) www.ndci.org/sites/default/files/ndci/KeyComponents.pdf  
13 Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, Do Drug Courts Save Jail and Prison Beds? (New York, NY: Vera Institute 
of Justice, 2000). www.vera.org/download?file=267/IIB%2BDrug%2Bcourts.pdf 
14 Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, 2009 
15 Heather C. West, William J. Sabol, and Sarah J. Greenman, 2010; Todd D. Minton, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2009 
(Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, 2010) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/jim09st.pdf and Doris 
J. James, Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, 2004) 
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/pji02.pdf 
16 Christopher J. Mumola, Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: 
Department of Justice, 2006) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/dudsfp04.pdf 
17 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Key Facts at a Glance, Number of persons under jurisdiction of state correctional 
authorities by most serious offense, 1980‐2006 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, Accessed January 2010) 
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/corrtyptab.cfm; Heather C. West, William J. Sabol, and Sarah J. 
Greenman, 2010, Table 10  
18 Christopher J Mumola and others, 2006 
19 Christopher J Mumola and others, 2006 
20 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 
Administration, Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, “Figure 7.1: 
Substance Dependence or Abuse in the Past Year among Persons Aged 12 or Older: 2002‐2008” (Washington, 
D.C.: Office of Applied Studies, 2008).  www.oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k8nsduh/2k8Results.cfm#7.1 
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 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The TEDS Report: Substance Abuse Treatment 
Admissions Referred by the Criminal Justice System. (Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies, 2009). 
http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/211/211CJadmits2k9.pdf 
22 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009.  
23 See Council of State Governments Justice Center, Reentry Policy Council, Community Supervision 
 http://reentrypolicy.org/Report/PartII/ChapterII‐E/PolicyStatement27/ResearchHighlight27‐3, Accessed March 
2011; Matthew T. DeMichele, Probation and Parole’s Growing Caseloads and Workload Allocation: Strategies for 
Managerial Decision Making  (Washington, D.C.: American Probation and Parole Association, 2007) www.appa‐
net.org/eweb/docs/appa/pubs/SMDM.pdf 
24 C. West Huddleston, III, Douglas B. Marlowe,  and Rachel Casebolt, 2008)  
25 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009. 
26 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The NSDUH Report: Substance Use Treatment 
Need and Receipt among People Living in Poverty (Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies, 2010) 
www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/173/173PovertyHTML.pdf 
27 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study: NTIES Highlights 
(Washington, D.C.: 1997)  www.ncjrs.gov/nties97/index.htm 
28 See Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, 2009. 
29 Elizabeth K. Drake, Steve Aos, and Marna G. Miller, “Evidence‐Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Crime 
and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State,” Victims and Offenders, 4:170–196. 
www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/09‐00‐1201.pdf 
30 B. Fischer, “Doing Good with a Vengeance: A Critical Assessment of the Practices, Effects and Implications of 
Drug Treatment Courts in North America,” Criminal Justice 3 , no. 3 (2003): 227‐248; J. Goldkamp, “The Drug 
Court Response: Issues and Implications for Justice Change,” Albany Law Review 63 (2000): 923‐961; National 
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), America’s Problem‐Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs of 
Treatment and the Case for Reform (Washington, D.C.: 2009) www.nacdl.org/drugcourts 
31 Government Accountability Office, Adult Drug Courts: Evidence Indicates Recidivism Reductions and Mixed 
Results for Other Outcomes (Washington, D.C.: GAO, February 2005) p. 62. www.gao.gov/new.items/d05219.pdf; 
Joseph Guydish, et al, “Drug Court Effectiveness: A Review of California Evaluation Reports, 1995‐1999,” 
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 33, no. 4 (2001): 374. 
32 Denise C. Gottfredson et al., “Long‐Term Effects of Participation in the Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court: 
Results from an Experimental Study,” Journal of Experimental Criminology 2, no. 1 (2006): 67‐98.  
33 S. Turner, P. Greenwood, T. Fain and E. Deschenes, “Perceptions of Drug Court: How Offenders View Ease 
of Program Completion, Strengths and Weaknesses, and the Impact on Their Lives,” National Drug Court 
Institute Review 2 (1999): 61‐85. 
34 J.F. Breckenridge, et al., “Drunk Drivers, DWI ‘Drug Court’ Treatment, and Recidivism: Who Fails?” Justice 
Research and Policy 2, no. 1(2007): 87‐105. 
35 See Council of State Governments Justice Center, Reentry Policy Council, Accessed March 2011; Matthew T. 
DeMichele, Probation and Parole’s Growing Caseloads and Workload Allocation: Strategies for Managerial Decision 
Making  (Washington, D.C.: American Probation and Parole Association, 2007) www.appa‐
net.org/eweb/docs/appa/pubs/SMDM.pdf 
36 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Shoveling Up II: The Impact of 
Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets (New York, NY: 2009) Page 17. 
www.casacolumbia.org/articlefiles/380‐ShovelingUpII.pdf 
37 James J. Stephan, State Prison Expenditures, 2001 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, 2004) 
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/spe01.pdf 
38 Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, 2009. 
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 Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, Do Drug Courts Save Jail and Prison Beds? (New York, NY: Vera Institute 
of Justice, 2000). www.vera.org/download?file=267/IIB%2BDrug%2Bcourts.pdf 
40 Corrections Yearbook, 2002. Data provided by Sandy Shilling, National Institute of Corrections, September 
2007. 
41 Government Accountability Office, 2005. p. 62; Joseph Guydish, et al, “Drug Court Effectiveness: A Review 
of California Evaluation Reports, 1995‐1999,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 33, no. 4 (2001): 374. 
42 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), 2009; Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, 
2000; B. Fischer, 2003; D.C. Gottfredson and M.L. Exum, “The Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court: One‐Year 
Results from a Randomized Study,” Journal of Research on Crime and Delinquency 39 (2002): 337‐356. 
43 Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos and Marna Miller, Evidence‐Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Crime and 
Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State (Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 
April 2009) www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/09‐00‐1201.pdf 
44 Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos and Marna Miller, 2009. 
45 See Sarah Lyons and Nastassia Walsh, 2010. 
46 John Feinblatt, Greg Berman, and Michelle Sviridoff, “Neighborhood Justice at the Midtown Community 
Court,” in Crime and Place: Plenary Papers of the 1997 Conference on Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation 87 
(Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, 1998). 
47 Michael M. O’Hear, “Rethinking Drug Courts: Restorative Justice as a Response to Racial Injustice,” Stanford 
Law and Policy Review 20 (2009): 463, 482‐83 
48 Morris B. Hoffman, “The Rehabilitative Ideal and the Drug Court Reality,” Federal Sentencing Reporter 14 
(2002): 172, 174  
49 Ryan S. King and Jill Pasquarella, 2009; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), 2009;  
Justice Policy Institute, Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Improve Public Safety 
(Washington, D.C.: JPI, 2010) www.justicepolicy.org 
50 Denise C. Gottfredson, S.S. Najaka and B. Kearley, “Effectiveness of Drug Treatment Courts: Evidence from a 
Randomized Trial,” Criminology and Public Policy 2 (2003): 171‐196; J. Goldkamp, “The Drug Court Response: 
Issues and Implications for Justice Change,” Albany Law Review 63 (2000): 923‐61. 
51 Denise C. Gottfredson, S.S. Najaka and B. Kearley, 2003. 
52 Denise C. Gottfredson, S.S. Najaka and B. Kearley, 2003. 
53 John R. Hepburn and Angela N. Harvey, “The Effect of the Threat of Legal Sanction on Program Retention 
and Completion: Is That Why They Stay in Drug Court?” Crime and Delinquency 53 (2007): 255. 
54 Tribal Law & Policy Institute, Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts: The Key Components (West Hollywood, Calif.: 
April 2003) www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/188154.pdf 
55 NADCP, Drug Court Map, accessed January 2011, www.nadcp.org/learn/find‐drug‐court 
56 Reentry Policy Council, Reentry Courts: An Emerging Trend (New York: Council of State Governments Justice 
Center, 2005) http://reentrypolicy.org/announcements/reentry_courts_emerging_trend 
57 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Types of Drug Courts,” January 2011. 
www.nadcp.org/learn/what‐are‐drug‐courts/models; Your Missouri Courts, “Missouri Drug Courts,” January 
2011 www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=250 
58 National Center for DWI Courts, What is a DWI Court? Accessed January 2011. 
www.dwicourts.org/learn/about‐dwi‐courts/what‐dwi‐court 
59 Caroline S. Cooper, Juvenile Drug Court Programs (Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and 
Delinquency Prevention, 2001) www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/184744.pdf 
60 National Drug Court Institute and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Family Dependency Treatment 
Courts: Addressing Child Abuse and Neglect Cases Using the Drug Court Model (Washington, D.C.: 2004) 
www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/206809.pdf; Meghan M. Wheeler and Carson L. Fox, Jr. Family Dependency 
Treatment Court: Applying the Drug Court Model in Child Maltreatment Cases (National Drug Court Institute, June 
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2006) www.ndcrc.org/content/family‐dependency‐treatment‐court‐applying‐drug‐court‐model‐child‐
maltreatment‐cases 
61 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Justice for Vets,” www.nadcp.org/JusticeForVets 
62 Council of State Governments Justice Center, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses The Essential 
Elements of a Mental Health Court (New York: 2008) http://consensusproject.org/jc_publications/essential‐
elements‐of‐a‐mental‐health‐court/mhc‐essential‐elements.pdf  
63 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Types of Drug Courts,” January 2011. 
www.nadcp.org/learn/what‐are‐drug‐courts/models; D.C.’s Superior Court Community Courts, 
www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/superior/community_courts.jsp; Center for Court Innovation, “Midtown 
Community Court,” January 2011. 
www.courtinnovation.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=591&currentTopTier2=true  
64 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Types of Drug Courts,” January 2011. 
www.nadcp.org/learn/what‐are‐drug‐courts/models 
65 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Types of Drug Courts,” January 2011. 
66 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Types of Drug Courts,” January 2011.  
67 American Bar Association, Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, Homeless Courts, Accessed January 2011. 
www.abanet.org/homeless/homeless_courts.shtml 
68 See The National Judicial College, Back on TRAC: Treatment, Responsibility & Accountability on Campus, 
www.centurycouncil.org/files/materials/Back%20on%20TRAC%20brochure.pdf; The Century Council, “Back 
on TRAC,” Accessed January 2011. www.centurycouncil.org/stop‐underage‐drinking/initiatives/backontrac 
69 BJA Programs, Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/drugcourts.html. 
Accessed January 2011. 
70 Cited in Robert V. Wolf, “Race, Bias, and Problem‐Solving Courts,” National Black Law Journal (2009) 
www.courtinnovation.org/_uploads/documents/race.pdf 
71 National Association of Drug Court Professionals, What are Drug Courts?, Accessed February 2011, 
www.nadcp.org/learn/what‐are‐drug‐courts 
72 See Michael Rempel and Christine Depies Destefano, “Predictors of Engagement in Court‐Mandated 
Treatment: Findings at the Brooklyn Treatment Court, 1996‐2000,” Drug Courts in Operation: Current Research 
(2001): 87‐124; J. E. Fielding et al., “Los Angeles County Drug Court Programs: Initial Results,” Journal of 
Substance Abuse Treatment 23 (2002): 217, 224; C. T. Lowenkamp et al., “Are drug courts effective: A meta‐
analytic review,” Journal of Community Corrections (2005): 5‐28. 
73 A.S. Bhati, J.K. Roman, and A. Chalfin, 2008.  
74 Thomas P. Bonczar, Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974‐2001 (Washington, D.C.: 
Department of Justice, 2003) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/piusp01.pdf 
75 Government Accountability Office, 2005.  
76 Michael. O’Hear, 2009; Steven R. Belenko, Research on Drug Courts: A Critical Review (2001 update) (New 
York: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2001).  
www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/2001drugcourts.pdf 
77 Dannerbeck et al., “Understanding and responding to racial differences in drug court outcomes,” Journal of 
Ethnicity in Substance Abuse 5, no. 2: 2006; S.R. Senjo and L.A. Leip, “Testing and developing theory in drug 
court: A four‐part logit model to predict program completion,” Criminal Justice Policy Review 12, no. 1 (2001): 
66‐87; Steven R. Belenko, 2001. 
78 Josh Bowers, “Contraindicated Drug Courts,” UCLA Law Review 55 (2008):783, 
http://uclalawreview.org/pdf/55‐4‐1.pdf 
79 B. Fischer, 2003; J. Goldkamp, 2000. 
80 Michael Rempel et al., The New York State Adult Drug Court Evaluation: Policies, Participants and Impacts (New 
York: Center for Court Innovation, 2003) at ix, xiii, 265–71, 
www.courtinnovation.org/_uploads/documents/drug_court_eval.pdf; Elaine M. Wolf et al., “Predicting 

 
 

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Retention of Drug Court Participants Using Event History Analysis,” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 37 (2003): 
139; Douglas Young and Steven Belenko, “Program Retention and Perceived Coercion in Three Models of 
Mandatory Drug Treatment,” Journal of Drug Issues 32 (2002): 297, 316 . 
81 Michael Rempel et al., 2003; Scott R. Senjo and Leslie A. Leip, 2001. 
82 www.nj‐statute‐info.com/getStatute.php?statute_id=1835 
83 A Model for Success: A Report on New Jersey’s Adult Drug Courts (New Jersey Courts, October 2010) 
www.judiciary.state.nj.us/drugcourt/DrugCourtReport.pdf 
84 C. West Huddleston, III, Douglas B. Marlowe, and Rachel Casebolt, 2008. 
85 A Model for Success: A Report on New Jersey’s Adult Drug Courts (New Jersey Courts, October 2010) 
86 J.M Miller and J.E. Shutt, “Considering the need for empirically grounded drug court screening 
mechanisms,” Journal of Drug Issues 31, no. 1 (2001):  91106. 
87 L. Truitt et al, Evaluating Treatment Drug Courts in Kansas City, Missouri and Pensacola, Florida Executive 
Summary (Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates, 2002); Josh Bowers, 2008; Michael Rempel et al., 2003. 
88 R.H. Peters, A.L. Haas, and Hunt, “Treatment dosage effects in drug court programs,” In J.J. Hennessy and 
N.J. Pallone (eds.). Drug courts in operation: Current research, pp. 6372. (New York, NY: The Haworth Press, 
2001). 
89 Mara Schiff and W. Clinton Terry III, “Predicting Graduation from Broward County’s Dedicated Drug Treatment 
Court,” Justice System Journal 19  (1997): 291; Valerie Bryan, Individual and Community‐Level Socioeconomic Factors 
and Drug Court Outcomes: Analysis and Implications, Presented at the 2006 – 18th National Symposium on 
Doctoral Research in Social Work (2006) 
https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/1811/25147/3/18VALERIEBRYANPAPER.pdf  
90 L. Truitt, et al. 2002; John R. Hepburn and Angela N. Harvey, 2007; Michael Rempel et al., 2003. 
91 John Roman and others, eds., Recidivism Rates for Drug Court Graduates: Nationally Based Estimates 
(Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2003) www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/201229.pdf 
92 John Roman and others, eds., 2003. 
93 Dale K. Sechrest and David Shicor, “Determinants of Graduation From a Day Treatment Drug Court in 
California: A Preliminary Study,” Journal of Drug Issues 31 (2001): 129, 139; Scott R. Senjo and Leslie A. Leip, 
2001; Mara Schiff  and W. Clinton Terry III, 1997; Terance D. Miethe et al., “Reintegrative Shaming and 
Recidivism Risks in Drug Court: Explanations for Some Unexpected Findings,” Crime and Delinquency 46 
(2000): 522, 527 
94 Josh Bowers, “Punishing the Innocent,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 156; William J. Stuntz, “Race, 
Class, and Drugs,” Columbia Law Review 98 (1998): 1795, 1825 
95 Caroline S. Cooper, Drug Courts: An Overview of Operational Characteristics and Implementation Issues 
(Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, 1995) www1.spa.american.edu/justice/documents/2059.pdf 
96 See Anthony C. Thompson, “Stopping the Usual Suspects: Race and the Fourth Amendment,” NYU Law 
Review 74 (1999): 956, 986–87; Jeffrey Fagan and Garth Davies, “Street Stops and Broken Windows: Terry, Race, 
and Disorder in New York City,” Fordham Urban Law Journal 28 (2000): 457, 458  
97 Government Accountability Office 2005; Joseph Guydish, et al, Oct.‐Dec. 2001. 
98 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), 2009. 
99 After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, A Report on State Legal Barriers Facing People with Criminal Records (New 
York: Legal Action Center, 2004). www.lac.org/roadblocks‐to‐reentry/upload/lacreport/LAC_PrintReport.pdf 
100 Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty (20 U.S.C. 1091 (r)) 
101 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), 2009; Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, 
2000; B. Fischer, 2003; D.C. Gottfredson and M.L. Exum, 2002: 337‐356. 
102 Josh Bowers, 2008; Reginald Fluellen and Jennifer Trone, 2000. 
103 See Josh Bowers, 2008; Michael Rempel et al., “Drugs Courts an Effective Treatment Alternative,” Criminal 
Justice 19 (2004): 34, 35; Denise C. Gottfredson et al., “Effectiveness of Drug Treatment Courts: Evidence From a 

 
 

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34

                                                                                                                                                                                                
Randomized Trial,” Criminology and Public Policy 2, no. 2 (2003): 171, 183, tbl. 4. 
www.ccjs.umd.edu/faculty/userfiles/25/gottfredson2003.pdf 
104 Terri Tanielian and Lisa H. Jaycox, Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their 
Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp., 2008) 
www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720.html 
105 Margaret E. Noonan and Christopher J. Mumola, Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: 
Department of Justice, 2007) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/vsfp04.pdf 
106 National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Veterans Treatment Courts Policy Brief, Accessed February 
2011. www.nadcp.org/sites/default/files/nadcp/VTC%20Brief.pdf 
107 National Association for Drug Court Professionals, “Justice for Vets,” www.nadcp.org/JusticeForVets, 
Accessed February 2011. 
108 Sean Clark, James McGuire and Jessica Blue‐Howells, “Development of Veterans Treatment Courts: Local 
and Legislative Initiatives,” Drug Court Review VII, no. I (2010) 
109 Sadie F. Dingfelder, “The militaryʹs war on stigma,” Monitor on Psychology, 2009. 
www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/stigma‐war.aspx 
110 Jason Ziedenberg and Scott Ehlers, Proposition 36: Five Years Later (Washington, D.C.: Justice Policy Institute, 
2006) www.justicepolicy.org 
111 South Carolina Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010, 
www.scstatehouse.gov/sess118_2009‐2010/bills/1154.htm 
112 Yvonne Wenger, “New law changes criminal sentencing,” The Post and Courier, June 3, 2010, 
www.postandcourier.com/news/2010/jun/03/new‐law‐changes‐criminal‐sentencing 
113 See Ryan S. King, Changing Direction? State Sentencing Reforms 2004 — 2006  (Washington, D.C.: The 
Sentencing Project, 2007) www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/sentencingreformforweb.pdf 
114 Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Legislative Summary, July 2010, 
www.ccjrc.org/pdf/2010_Legislative_Summary_CCJRC.pdf 
115 Fiscal Note for House Bill 2668, May 2003, www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/78R/fiscalnotes/html/HB02668E.htm 
116 Council of State Governments Justice Center, Justice Reinvestment in Texas: Assessing the Impact of the 2007 
Justice Reinvestment Initiative, Apr. 2009,  http://justicereinvestment.org/files/Texas_Bulletin.pdf 

 
 

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