GAO Study Shows Lower Recidivism Among Drug-Court Participants


An analysis of 32 drug courts by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that program participants were generally less likely to be re-arrested than comparison group members drawn from criminal court. Differences were statistically significant for 18 of the programs.

Cost-benefit analyses showed mixed results. The percentages of drug-court program participants re-arrested were lower than for comparison group members by 6 to 26 percentage points. Drug court participants who completed their program had re-arrest rates 12 to 58 percentage points below those of the comparison group. Analysis of relapse data for eight programs showed that drug-court program participants were less likely than comparison group members to use drugs, based on drug tests or self-reported drug use, although the difference was not always significant. Among studies assessing drug-court costs and benefits, the net benefit ranged from positive $47,852 to negative $7,108 per participant. The Justice Department agreed with a GAO recommendation that Justice document key methods used to guide future revisions of its performance measures for the drug-court program.

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