NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Drug Courts Seen As Effective

June 1, 2001

Drug offenders whose cases are routed through drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than those who are assigned to the normal justice system, according to a new study. The courts are designed to steer people with minor drug offenses into lengthy treatment and probation programs, rather than prison.

Steven Belenko, of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, says drug courts reduce criminal activity -- but more research is needed to understand how offenders fare after completing treatment.

  • There are 688 drug courts operating around the nation and another 432 are planned, according to the Department of Justice's Drug Court Clearinghouse at American University.
  • To date, 220,000 adults and 9,000 teens have enrolled in drug-court programs.
  • Of those, at least 73,000 adults and 1,500 teens have graduated -- but those numbers should escalate swiftly because many of the programs are new.
  • In one of the 37 studies reviewed by Belenko, 5.4 percent of drug-court offenders were arrested again -- significantly fewer than the 21.5 percent in a comparison group.

Drug use was found to be low among those enrolled in the program because participants must take frequent drug tests and meet regularly with drug court judges. They also meet with probation officers and may be ordered to keep journals, undergo tutoring or join in community service or vocational education programs.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "Researcher Says Drug Courts Help Reduce Criminal Activity," Washington Times June 1, 2001.


Browse more articles on Government Issues