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Drug Court Effectiveness: A Review of California Evaluation Reports, 1995-1999


Over the past two decades, drug courts have emerged as a viable alternative for addressing drug cases within the criminal justice system. In California, the Drug Court Partnership Program (DCPP) was created in 1998 and has supported and funded the development of drug courts throughout the State. This article reports on a review of California drug court evaluations through January 2000 conducted as part of an evaluation of the California DCPP. A total of 23 evaluations were collected. Seventeen were reviewed in detail, and six were excluded because they were internal reports rather than evaluations. A standardized review process was initiated which led to a scored rating of the evaluation reports. Results of this review support previous findings that drug court participants may experience reduced rearrest rates by 11% to 14% compared to nonparticipants. The largest reduction in rearrest rates appears among graduates. The graduation rates were between 19% and 54%. Costs and savings associated with drug courts were discussed but no conclusions were possible based on the findings from these evaluations. The evaluation of the effectiveness of drug courts presents unique challenges. This review concludes with a discussion of evaluation methods (e.g. standardizing rate calculations, term definitions) that would strengthen drug court research.

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