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Drug Courts

In the Spotlight


Drug Courts

A drug court is a specialized court docket program that targets criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug addiction and dependency problems (Drug Courts, National Institute of Justice, retrieved August 2017).


According to Drug Courts (Bureau of Justice Assistance, National Institute of Justice, and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2018):

  • Adult drug courts employ a program designed to reduce drug use relapse and criminal recidivism among defendants and offenders through risk and needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring and supervision, graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment and various rehabilitation services.
  • Juvenile drug courts apply a similar approach that is tailored to the needs of youth with substance use disorders. These programs provide youth and their families with counseling, education and other services to: promote immediate intervention, treatment and structure; improve level of functioning; address problems that may contribute to drug use; build skills that increase their ability to lead drug-and crime-free lives; strengthen the family's capacity to offer structure and guidance; and promote accountability for all involved.
  • Family drug courts emphasize treatment for parents with substance use disorders to aid in the reunification and stabilization of families affected by parental drug use. These programs apply the adult drug court model to cases entering the child welfare system that include allegations of child abuse or neglect in which substance abuse is identified as a contributing factor.

The National Institute of Justice’s Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) found that: Drug court participants reported less drug use (56 percent versus 76 percent) and were less likely to test positive for drug use (29 percent versus 46 percent) than the comparison probationers. Participants also reported less criminal activity (40 percent versus 53 percent) and had fewer rearrests (52 percent versus 62 percent, but not statistically significant difference) than the comparison probationers.

Additional MADCE research found that drug courts produce an estimated $1.50 in benefits for every dollar in costs. See the following resources to learn more about MADCE and NIJ research related to drug courts:

This topical resource on Drug Courts contains the following information:

  • Facts and Figures – Includes the latest information and statistics.
  • Legislation – A sample of links to online federal and state legislation and testimony.
  • Publications – A sample of available resources.
  • Programs – Examples of State and local programs and initiatives available online.
  • Training and Technical Assistance – A sample of training and technical assistance opportunities available through nationally recognized agencies and associations.
  • Grants and Funding – Links to federal funding opportunities.
  • Related Resources – Examples of nationally recognized agencies and organizations that provide services or information.