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Reconsidering Drug Court Effectiveness: A Meta-analytic Review

NCJ Number
Deborah Shaffer
Date Published
315 pages

This dissertation presents a modified approach to meta-analysis aimed at identifying characteristics associated with the most effective drug courts.


The research for this dissertation expands on prior meta-analyses of drug court effectiveness; the author attempted to collect additional data related to the operations and structure of previously evaluated drug courts. The author identified a total of 60 drug court evaluations, representing 76 distinct drug courts and six aggregated drug court programs, and collected data regarding policies and procedures from 63 of the distinct drug courts. To accomplish this, the author interviewed drug court coordinators via telephone about their programs, asking questions related to program funding, program design and implementation, treatment, and staff characteristics. The data collected through the interviews supplemented the data collected from outcome evaluations, with the goal that all the data, in combination, will result in a greater understanding of factors relating to drug court effectiveness. For this research project, the author sought to answer two questions: are drug courts effective in reducing recidivism, and what characteristics are associated with effective drug courts. In chapter one, the author states the problem, and discusses meta-analyses and drug courts. In the second chapter, the author provides an in-depth look at the evolution and impact of drug courts, with sections covering the War on Drugs, the drug court model, juvenile drug courts, effectiveness of drug courts, predictors of graduation, meta-analytic reviews, an examination of what works with drug courts, and principles of effective intervention. In the third chapter, the author provides details on the research methodology, drug court measures, data analysis, and limitations of conducting a telephone survey. The fourth chapter discusses the research results, with a breakdown of survey findings and characteristics of effective drug courts. In chapter five, the author presents a summary of findings, conclusions, and implications for the future evaluation of drug courts.