Drug Court Study Says They Can Cut Drug Use and Crime, Save Money


The most extensive study of drug courts — a five-year examination of 23 courts and six comparison sites in eight states — found that they can significantly decrease drug use and criminal behavior. The Justice Department-funded study was released today by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, the Center for Court Innovation, and RTI International. Nearly 1,400 adult drug courts operate in the U.S.

The study said positive outcomes increased as participants sensed their judge treated them more fairly, showed greater respect and interest in them, and gave them more chances to talk during court proceedings. While drug court costs are higher than usual case processing, they save money, the study found, by significantly reducing the number of crimes, re-arrests, and days incarcerated. Drug courts save an average of $5,680 per participant, returning a net benefit of $2 for every $1 spent. The study involved courts in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington, and comparison sites in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington.

For earlier coverage of the drug court issue, see “Problem-Solving Justice? How Well is it Working?” by TCR’s West Coast Bureau Chief Joe Domanick.

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