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The Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation: The Impact of Drug Courts (Pre-Production)

Volume 4

Shelli B. RossmanJohn RomanJanine M. Zweig, Michael Rempel, Christine Lindquist
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Document date: March 01, 2011
Released online: June 30, 2011


Volume 4 from the National Institute of Justice's Multi–site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) provides findings from the outcome evaluation answering the questions, "do drug courts work", "for whom do drug courts work," and "what are the mechanisms by which drug courts work", as well as provides findings from the cost–benefit study. The outcome 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. Implications for practice, policy, and future research are also discussed.

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Key Features of the Impact Evaluation

Beginning in 2003, the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute (UI-JPC), partnered with RTI International (RTI) and the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), to conduct the Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The main objectives of this project were to evaluate the effect of drug courts compared to other criminal justice responses for individuals with substance use issues, and to examine the effect of different drug court practices and key components on participant outcomes. The project was structured in two phases. During the first phase, the research team undertook a one-year planning process in which we developed instruments and data collection protocols, as well as conducted a web-based survey to (1) develop a countrywide picture of adult drug courts and (2) support site selection for the research to be undertaken in the second phase. The second phase entailed three major components focused on performing process, impact, and cost-benefit evaluations.

The objectives of the MADCE study are to

  • Test the hypotheses that drug court participants achieve better outcomes related to continued substance use and recidivism than similar offenders not exposed to drug courts.
  • Isolate key individual and program factors that influence the outcomes.
  • Test effects of variations in implementing the drug court model on participant outcomes.

The MADCE research design is in a strong position to yield unbiased answers that can be reasonably generalized to drug courts nationwide. As described in earlier Volumes results are based on a sample of 23 adult drug courts and 6 comparison sites from 8 states located throughout the country. Although we did not employ a systematic random sample of sites, and some regions of the country are under-represented, the study nonetheless represents the largest and broadest multi-site effort to date, providing a unique opportunity to estimate the likely average effects of today‚??s adult drug courts.

As previously described, we collected a wealth of offender participation and outcome data, extending well beyond the restriction of most previous studies to official recidivism impacts only. The design included a baseline and two follow-up waves of offender surveys at 6- and 18- months post-enrollment, as well as official crime records at 24 months, which allowed us to examine whether drug court effects are durable or recede over time. Additionally, the multi-wave design enabled us to (1) model the relationship between offender program experiences and attitudes during the first 6 months with outcomes at the 18- and 24-month marks and (2) compare drug court effects on resource allocations to courts. Chapter 2. Impact Methodology and Appendix A. Technical Appendix: Analytic Strategy for Producing Unbiased Estimates of Drug Court Impact detail the methodology we used to produce unbiased estimates of drug court impact.

End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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