The National Institute of Justice's Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) tested whether drug courts reduce drug use, crime, and associated problems; assessed how drug courts work and for whom; examined how changes in participant attitudes and behaviors explain effectiveness; and determined whether drug courts generate cost savings. The evaluation found that drug courts prevent crime and substance use and work equally well for most participant subgroups. Effects are greatest among participants whose judges who spend time with them, support them, and treat them with respect.
Methodology and implications for policy and practice are also discussed.
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Drug courts emerged spontaneously during the late 1980s and early 1990s in response to burgeoning drug offender arrests and prosecutions that overwhelmed the capacity of numerous courts to expeditiously process such cases. In 2002, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) commissioned the first adult drug court evaluation that would select multiple sites from across the country. In 2003, researchers from the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center (UI-JPC), RTI International (RTI), and the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) teamed to conduct NIJ's Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation. The main objectives were as follows:
- Test whether drug courts reduce drug use, crime, and multiple other problems associated with drug abuse, in comparison with similar offenders not exposed to drug courts.
- Address how drug courts work and for whom by isolating key individual and program factors that make drug courts more or less effective in achieving their desired outcomes.
- Explain how offender attitudes and behaviors change when they are exposed to drug courts and how these changes help explain the effectiveness of drug court programs.
- Examine whether drug courts generate cost savings.
This report provides an overview of the research design and key findings from the impact and cost-benefit evaluations, and identifies implications for policy and practice.
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