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First 20 Years of Drug Treatment Courts: A Brief Description of Their History and Impact

NCJ Number
Federal Probation: A Journal of Correctional Philosophy and Practice Volume: 72 Issue: 1 Dated: June 2008 Pages: 13-17
Arthur J. Lurigio
Date Published
June 2008
5 pages
This paper presents an overview of the first 20 years of adult drug treatment courts (DTCs); its implementation, the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence, and the nationwide increase of drug courts.
Since the 1980s, an overwhelming emphasis on law enforcement strategies to combat illegal drug possession and sales has resulted in dramatic increases in the Nation’s arrest and incarceration rates. Increased prison sentences for drug offenses contributed to the burgeoning of the incarcerated population in the United States, later clogging the criminal justice system. This resulted in numerous courts adopting new approaches for clearing crowded dockets, one such approach was a specialized drug court model, the drug treatment court (DTC). DTCs often combine many features of the various forms of drug courts, such as expedited case processing, outpatient treatment, and support services, as well as involving mandatory drug testing and intensive court or probation supervision. This article focuses on adult DTCs and begins by discussing the implementation of first-generation specialized drug courts and presents research exploring the effects of these courts on case processing and sentencing. It continues with defining the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence and the theoretical underpinning of DTCs. A description of the country’s oldest and best-known DTC with an enumeration of the core elements is provided. The article examines the rise in the number of drug courts nationwide and summarizes research on their impact on rearrest and treatment retention. The article concludes with some recommendations for future investigations of DTCs. References