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Sanction Threats in Court-Ordered Programs: Examining Their Effects on Offenders Mandated Into Drug Treatment

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 46 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2000 Pages: 542-563
Sheila Royo Maxwell
Date Published
October 2000
22 pages
This article examines the effects of sanction threats on offenders mandated into drug treatment.
During the past decade, court-ordered diversion and treatment procedures have proliferated in response to the problems of court congestion and prison overcrowding. Underlying these court orders are sanctions that are often used to threaten offenders to comply with the court's mandate. Given the widespread use of court orders and their stiff penalties for violations, the effectiveness of sanction threats in enforcing compliance among offenders has rarely been examined. Using a sample of offenders mandated by the courts into drug treatment, this article examines the effects of sanction threat on the offenders' perceptions of threat and their length of stay in drug treatment. Both legal status and legal pressure had significant independent effects on retention, but one was not conditional on the other. In other words, greater perceived threat increased retention regardless of the defendants' actual legal status. Thus, defendants' placement in the court process at the time of referral did not influence their perceptions of threat. Tables, figure, notes, references