|The Daily Record|
Only 18 Of 32 Drug Courts Showed Statistically Significant Reduction In Re-Arrest Rates Of Participants
Drug courts, hailed just a few years ago as the salvation of our criminal justice system — they were supposed to rescue the courts from being swamped with low-level possession cases — have problems of their own.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week released a report in which it finds that only 18 of 32 drug courts — or just more than 50 percent — showed statistically significant reductions in recidivism among participants.
That is, almost half of drug courts do not reduce re-arrest rates of their participants below the rates of people who went through the normal criminal justice process.
|Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, DPA: “The message here is: enter a drug court at your own risk”|
”The message here is: enter a drug court at your own risk,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director in Southern California for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The chance that you’ll enter a drug court that might help you avoid getting arrested again is about 50-50, the equivalent of a count toss.
“Clearly, the popularity that drug courts enjoy is not supported by the evidence,” Dooley-Sammuli said.
The GAO’s findings echo those of the Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), the longest and largest ever study of drug courts. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, MADCE recently reported a re-arrest rate for drug court participants that was 10 percentage points below that of the comparison group, but that the difference was not statistically significant.
This means that the study effectively found no different in re-arrest rates between the groups, as the small decrease detected may be the result of chance.
|Daniel Abrahamson, DPA: “Drug courts have actually helped to increase, not decrease, the criminal justice entanglement of people who struggle with drugs”|
”Drug courts have actually helped to increase, not decrease, the criminal justice entanglement of people who struggle with drugs and have failed to provide quality treatment,” said Daniel Abrahamson, DPA’s director of legal affairs. “Only sentencing reform and expanded investment in health approaches to drug use will stem the flow of drug arrests and incarceration.
“The feel-good nature of drug courts hasn’t translated into results,” Abrahamson said. “U.S. drug policy must be based not on good intentions, but on robust, reliable research.”
The DPA this year released Drug Courts Are Not The Answer: Toward A Health-Centered Approach To Drug Use, which found that drug courts have not demonstrated cost savings, reduced incarceration, or improved public safety; leave many people worse off for trying; and have actually made the criminal justice system more punitive toward addiction — not less.
For example, people who struggle the most with a drug problem are more likely to be kicked out of a drug court and incarcerated. Although relapse is a common and predictable occurrence during treatment, drug courts often punish relapse with jail time.
The GAO’s study is available by clicking here.
Results from MADCE are available by clicking here.