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Do Drug Courts Reduce the Use of Incarceration?: A Meta-Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 41 Issue: 6 Dated: 2013 Pages: 416-425
Date Published
10 pages

This study of adult drug courts’ impact on incarceration found mixed results.


This study of adult drug courts found that the evidence concerning drug courts impact on incarceration is mixed. Drug courts eliminate the experience of incarceration for many drug-involved offenders, but they also do not appear to reduce the aggregate, near-term burden placed upon correctional resources. More research is required to confirm these findings. The objective of this research was to synthesize the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of adult drug courts to serve as an alternative to incarceration, and to investigate which features of drug courts predict successful diversion. The authors performed a series of meta-analyses of different incarceration outcomes as well as meta-regression analyses investigating which features of drug courts predict successful diversion. Drug courts significantly reduced the incidence of incarceration on the precipitating offense, corresponding to a reduction in confinement from 50% to 42% for jail and 38% for prison incarceration. However, drug courts did not significantly reduce the average amount of time offenders spent behind bars, suggesting that any benefits realized from a lower incarceration rate are offset by the long sentences imposed on participants when they fail the program. Meta-regression results indicated that certain drug courts features (i.e., program intensity, in-program sanctions, risk profile of participants) are related to incarceration outcomes. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2013