U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Statewide Evaluation of New York's Adult Drug Courts: Identifying Which Policies Work Best

NCJ Number
Amanda B. Cissner; John K. Roman; Samuel Bieler; Robyn Cohen; Carolyn R. Cadoret; Michael Rempel; Allyson Walker Franklin
Date Published
June 2013
118 pages
Findings and methodology are presented for an evaluation of 86 adult drug courts in New York State (the most sites ever included in a single drug court evaluation) for the primary purpose of determining why some drug courts were more successful than others in reducing recidivism and improving sentencing outcomes.
The evaluation found a positive, albeit relatively modest, impact on re-arrest and re-conviction for participants in New York's adult drug courts. There were significant variations in policies and practices among the drug courts, which led to significant variations in their impact. The drug courts that had the greatest positive impact on participants served a higher risk population and a population over whom the drug court had greater leverage in imposing consequences for failure (e.g., felony as opposed to misdemeanor defendants). The more effective courts also maximized legal leverage in other ways (e.g., through predetermined jail or prison alternatives imposed on those who fail). Other features of the most successful courts were the imposition of sanctions for non-compliance; the inclusion of prosecutor and defense representatives on the drug court team; greater use of residential treatment for "high-need" participants with a serious addiction; and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based practices when indicated by needs assessment. The evaluation compared recidivism and sentencing outcomes between statistically matched samples drawn from 86 drug courts and conventional courts in the same jurisdictions. The samples came from cases that either enrolled in a drug court or were resolved in a conventional court in 2005 or 2006. Using propensity score matching techniques, the final samples were virtually identical on key characteristics, including criminal history, charges, and demographic background. The analysis of data assumed that the drug court impact might vary based on local context and specific court policies and practices. Extensive tables, 75 references, and appended study instruments and supplementary data