This report presents findings from a national evaluation of 14 drug court programs that received funding through the Drug Courts Program Office in 1995 and 1996.
The study aimed to develop a framework for drug courts, document program implementation, and assess the evaluability of the 14 programs for future evaluation. Data collection took place during site visits. Information came from interviews of criminal justice and drug treatment personnel involved in the programs, observations of hearings, visits to drug treatment programs, reviews of case files and other records, reviews of criminal justice records, and analysis of existing process and outcome evaluations. Site visitors completed similar protocols for each site and focused on program model and characteristics, participant flow, participant eligibility and characteristics, staffing, setting, funding and costs, treatment, and other services. The protocols also covered reinforcements and sanctions, intensity, rehabilitative versus surveillance philosophy, monitoring and supervision, linkage and collaboration, administrative leadership and cooperation, program implementation, implementation barriers, and evaluability. Results revealed that these programs were typical of drug court programs across the country. They met many of the crucial components of effective drug court programs. However, the programs experienced success in varying degrees. Analysis using the conceptual framework involving five dimensions (leverage, population severity, intensity, predictability, and rehabilitative emphasis) revealed variation across sites that might be useful for future analyses of program outcomes. Results also indicated that the strongest evaluation design for most sites would be quasi-experimental, limited to administrative data, and in need of a fair amount of onsite abstraction. The greatest obstacles to traditional evaluation were the lack of integrated management information systems and adequate comparison groups. The analysis concluded that future evaluation was crucial and that the development of an appropriate management information system was central to any future evaluations. Tables, appended site visit protocol, and 52 references (Author abstract modified)
Date Published: September 1, 2001