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Drug Courts and the Role of Graduated Sanctions

NCJ Number
Date Published
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This videotape describes court-based drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration and the use of graduated sanctions in the District of Columbia for pretrial drug-involved felony offenders.


Key features of the pretrial program are early intervention, judicial involvement in monitoring the progress of defendants, frequent drug testing, and immediate access to drug test results. The program has a highly automated and sophisticated drug testing system. The program was evaluated based on treatment, sanctions, and standard or control dockets. Data were obtained on immediate outcomes and on drug use and criminal activity 1 year after sentencing and participation in drug treatment. The sample was 85 percent male and 95 percent black, two-thirds had prior convictions, and the median age was 31 years. Participants in the sanctions docket had to test clean twice a week or face graduated sanctions. Results showed 27 percent of sanctions participants were drug-free, compared to 11 percent of standard participants. About 11 percent of sanctions participants were rearrested, compared to 17 percent of standard participants. Evaluation findings on court-based treatment indicate assessment and multiple treatment options and strong incentives to participate are needed, treatment quality must be monitored, sanctions need to be swift and certain, and the process needs to be seen as fair.

Date Published: January 1, 1998