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Operation Drug TEST Evaluation

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2001
156 pages

This evaluation focused on the implementation and impacts of a program conducted in 24 Federal judicial districts which started in fiscal year 1997 to provide drug testing prior to a defendants’ first court appearance, together with effective sanctions for defendants using drugs during release, and referral of drug users to treatment as needed.


The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) directed the Operation Drug TEST (ODT) with funding from the Department of Justice. The two main data sources were the fiscal 1998 and 1999 data reported by all 24 participating districts to the AOUSC and interviews with chief Pretrial Services Officers and staff at all districts. Results revealed that testing of defendants before their first court appearance occurred in about half of the defendant population in the districts that followed a model congruent with the ODT objective of universal testing of defendants before their first court appearance. Approximately 13 percent of defendants who tested positive were hidden drug users in that no other information would have identified them as drug users. Rates of sanctions for defendants who tested positive on release were low. Districts did not use the drug treatment option often, but they were more likely to use it in fiscal 1999 than in fiscal 1998. Results also revealed that ODT implementation was incremental and that districts used the funding mostly in the service of existing policies and protocols. Findings suggested that the mission of pretrial services and the short duration of time during which defendants were under supervision might have limited ODT’s potential as a spur to innovation in pretrial supervision. Nevertheless, test capabilities put in place by ODT and the program’s impact on districts’ use of treatment indicated that additional districts might have benefited from ODT participation and that sanctioning and treatment innovations were possible if districts placed more emphasis on those domains. Figures and tables

Date Published: March 1, 2001