The Importance of Drug Courts: Lessons From Measuring Impact

John S. Goldkamp, Temple University

Drug courts have now been in existence long enough to have critical questions about their impact addressed with some degree of certainty. As evaluation has focused mostly on logical, but narrow measures of "outcomes," there is a need not only to build and focus a solid research base regarding their impact, but also for a somewhat broader discussion of the impact and implications of drug court phenomenon for criminal justice in the new century. Drawing on findings from a recent "longitudinal" study of the Portland and Las Vegas drug courts (Goldkamp et. al., 2000, 2001), this paper discusses the importance of the drug court movement to American criminal justice from several perspectives: evidence relating to whether they "work," a theoretical understanding of how they work, if and when they do, and the implications of the drug court innovation as a catalyst for fundamental change in the institution of criminal courts.

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Updated 05/20/2006