Do drug courts work?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-12-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-12-11.

Question of the Week: Do drug courts work?

A new report called “Drug Courts Are Not the Answer” from the Drug Policy Alliance defines drug courts as,

“an application of therapeutic jurisprudence theories in which the judge does not ask whether the state has proven that a crime has been committed but instead whether the court can help to heal a perceived pathology.”

The report goes on to say,

“The judge is the ultimate arbiter of treatment and punishment decisions and holds a range of discretion unprecedented in the courtroom … The defense lawyer, no longer an advocate for the participant’s rights, assists the participant to comply with court rules.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers asserts,

“Under the traditional drug court model, an individual must waive significant rights when entering drug court.”

“Most drug courts require a guilty plea as the price of admission.”

While drug courts have been praised for reducing recidivism and yielding positive cost/benefit ratios, the Congressional Research Service found,

“Drug court evaluations have been widely criticized for methodological weaknesses and data inconsistencies. … the majority of drug court program evaluations (1) have either no comparison group or a biased comparison group, … (2) report outcomes only for participants who complete the program, … and (3) use flawed data-collection methods, such as drug court participants’ self-reported surveys.”

District Judge Morris B. Hoffman concluded in the North Carolina Law Review,

“… drug courts are not satisfying either the legitimate and compassionate interests of the treatment community or the legitimate and rational interests of the law enforcement community. They are, instead, simply enabling our continued national schizophrenia about drugs.”

These facts and others like them can be found in the Drug Court Chapter of Drug War Facts at