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Strengthening the Foundation: A Look at Past, Present, and Future Research for Adult Drug Courts

NCJ Number
Jarred Williams
Date Published
April 2023
16 pages

This publication on the Center for Justice Innovation’s Strengthening the Foundation for Drug Court Research: A Research and Practitioner Partnership project, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, provides a brief overview of the evidence base behind the adult drug court model.


In 2020, the Center for Justice Innovation (“the Center”) developed the Strengthening the Foundation for Drug Court Research: A Research and Practitioner Partnership project with funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. This research brief seeks to provide practitioners and researchers with a snapshot of the existing evidence base behind the adult drug court model that, acquired through extensive research conducted over the past three decades, has produced a foundation of knowledge about treatment courts. From this body of research, several drug court successes have been documented. This brief begins with a review of the documented successes of drug courts, followed by a section on the components of the drug court model, and concludes with recommendations for future drug court research. The brief identifies potential areas of interest for the next generation of drug court research. Isolating long-term effects, identifying additional groups who may benefit, evaluating responsivity programming, doubling down on the qualitative research, and more comprehensively including those who are justice-impacted will strengthen the drug court model. The authors recommend the following: future research should include longer follow-up periods to determine if positive program impacts are sustained; research is needed to better understand which additional groups might benefit from the drug court model; more research is needed to better understand the effectiveness of responsivity-focused programming; more qualitative research is needed; the perspectives of past and present drug court participants should inform future programming. Most research to date has concluded that drug courts are generally succeeding at their primary goals and that drug courts are a cost-effective way to provide the critical services participants need to reduce future criminal activity and illicit substance use.