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Assessing the Impact of Dade County's Felony Drug Court

NCJ Number
J S Goldkamp; D Weiland
Date Published
December 1993
11 pages
This research study examines the court-based drug abuse treatment program for felony drug offenders started in Dade County, Florida.
In 1989, Florida's Eleventh Judicial Circuit initiated a program of court supervised drug abuse treatment for felony drug abusers in Dade County. This report attempts to evaluate the success of the program which is known as the Miami Drug Court. The program combines the sometimes competing aims of the criminal justice and treatment approaches to dealing with drug offenders. Measuring the success of such a program therefore depends on one's perspective and is a policy decision based on the program's goals. In this study, researchers compared program participants to defendants in noneligible drug cases and some nondrug cases over an 18 month period. They found that the median time spent in drug treatment by program participants was approximately 11 months. The longer the time spent in treatment, the more favorable the outcome. Noneligible defendants were found to move through the system quicker with more of their cases being dropped. During the study period, Drug Court defendants had lower rates of incarceration, were rearrested less frequently, had a longer time to rearrest but had higher failure to appear rates primarily because they were required to appear more frequently than is required in normal processing of criminal charges. Strengths of the program identified by this study include strong joint support shown by the judiciary, the prosecutor and the defender; the leadership of an actively involved judiciary; a custom designed treatment program and tolerance for some amount of misbehavior on the part of participants. Key challenges involved in developing a Drug Court program include the need for fast, accurate information about the defendant, clearly defining the target population and screening criteria and the need for a variety of treatment options for different types and levels of abuse. 7 exhibits