This study compared three federally funded drug treatment courts in Cook County, Illinois, to compare programs and assess whether they achieved their goals or to identify the factors or characteristics that facilitate or impede program success.
The present popularity of drug courts, introduced in 1989, reflects the growing recognition among criminal justice professionals that traditional methods have largely failed to break the cycle of illegal drug use and crime. Drug abuse treatment has become a central component of drug court strategies in the United States. With that, the number of drug treatment courts has grown rapidly over the past few years. This study compared three federally funded drug treatment courts in Cook County, Illinois, explored each court’s ability to implement the key components of drug courts enumerated by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ Drug Court Standards Committee, examined the reasons the courts were able or unable to meet standards, and discussed the broader implications of findings for specialized drug treatment court policies and practices. Ten key components of drug courts were identified and grouped into two general categories: (1) drug court workgroup dynamics; and (2) offender identification, monitoring and services. Study findings indicated: (1) the drug court’s inclusion of probation officers and treatment staff into the courtroom workgroup; (2) the exclusion of persons with prior convictions for violent offenses; (3) suggestions in the improvement in program participation levels; and (4) drug courts can be effective with varying populations and varying degrees of success in adopting the key components of drug courts. Due to the encouraging results, the study suggested long-term outcome studies be conducted. Tables and references