Assessing the Impact of Functional Components of the Drug Court Model on Post-Program Recidivism

Donald F. Anspach, University of Southern Maine
Andrew Ferguson, USM Research Institute

Research on the "black box" of the drug court intervention is limited, particularly regarding impacts of key functional components of the drug court model on participant level outcomm. The findings from the few well designed studies of drug courts confirm that there are variations in the delivery of key components of drug courts -- treatment, testing and sanctions. However, there is little information on how the organization and the delivery of these components have an effect on client level outcomes.

This paper presents findings from a national study of four mentor drug courts. It examines the impact of various components of the drug court model on offender recidivism outcomes during a one year post-program follow-up. An analysis of officially recorded information on 2,357 drug court participants was conducted as part of a larger study assessment the efficacy of treatment in the drug court context. The analysis of participant level data was used to examine the impact of drug court attendance, treatment participation, and drug testing on graduations rates and post-program arrests. Overall findings from the four drug courts indicate that 33% of the 2,357 participants successfully completed the program and graduated. Post program re-arrests rates vary by site but overall 9% of those who successfully completed the program and 41% of those who were expelled were re-arrested for a new offense within a 12 month post-program follow-up.

The results of a series of logistic regression models indicate that program discharge status (graduation/termination) is the most consistent variable associated with post-program recidivism. In three of the four drug courts, graduation reduces the risk of recidivism. No other variable is consistent across the four sites. A number of logistic regressions and path analyses indicate program "successes" in terms of graduation are also "successful" post-program in terms of lower rates of re-arrests whereas program "failures" (participants expelled from the program) do not do as well after program discharge. The results of a series of path analyses support these findings. they indicate that participant compliance with key components of the drug court model operate through program completion thereby affecting post-program recidivism outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006