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Drug Court Program Monitoring: Lessons Learned About Program Implementation and Research Methodology

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 18 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 294-312
Andrew L. Giacomazzi; Valerie Bell
Date Published
September 2007
19 pages
This article reviews the implementation of a drug court in a Southern State, discusses benchmarks for effective programs from the drug-court literature, and examines findings and lessons learned about program implementation and research methodology from a process evaluation that used multiple methods for assessing program implementation.
The process evaluation of a drug court found clear evidence that the program as implemented complies with benchmarks identified in the literature as "best practices" for drug court operations. The benchmarks include the use of empirically validated and theoretically driven treatment models, ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant through regular status hearings, ongoing assessments of treatment services, internal evaluations of drug-court staff regarding service delivery as well as external evaluations of program process and outcomes, the use of a compliance officer to reward cooperation and respond effectively to noncompliance, drug testing, and the use of a collaborative rather than an adversarial processing of cases. Multiple methods were used in assessing the implementation of the drug court. These included face-to-face interviews with all key program personnel, a focus group interview of drug court clients, observations of drug court proceedings, a review of existing county drug court documents, and the collection of archival data from client files. One of the lessons learned is that conducting comprehensive presite interviews helps in establishing the credibility of the researchers with program administrators. A second lesson learned is that researchers should not only compare program implementation with benchmarks in the literature, but also those set by the drug court being studied. Other lessons are that researchers should inform program administrators about the nature of the evaluation process and that researchers should be open to changing research plans once in the field. 1 table, appended presite interview, and 22 references