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DOJ Press Release letterhead

Friday, June 16, 2006
Office of Justice Programs
Contact: Catherine Sanders
Phone: (202) 307-0703
TTY: (202) 514-1888




            WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new publication from the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) National Institute of Justice ( NIJ ), Drug Courts: The Second Decade, summarizes research that practitioners and policymakers will find useful in shaping the future of drug courts. The findings are based on several NIJ -funded studies that evaluated the way drug courts operate. Among the major findings were:

  • Drug courts appear to reduce recidivism. The effectiveness of a court may depend on how consistently the court resources match the needs of drug court participants.
  • The judge's role is critical to a drug court participant's success. Interaction with a judge was found to be pivotal in keeping participants in the program.
  • Treatment works best when it is based on proper assessment, service delivery, and monitoring. It should include compatible approaches based on formal theories of drug abuse and dependence, the best therapeutic tools available, and opportunities to build cognitive skills. Effectiveness is weakened by approaches based on incompatible philosophies.
  • Research about juvenile drug courts and treatment has not yet provided guidance on the most effective practices and policies for juvenile offenders who usually have a wide range of needs and issues. Until more research is available, it is unclear whether the proper mission for juvenile drug courts is prevention or intervention.
  • Drug courts can be cost effective. An analysis of one court, (Multnomah County, Oregon), estimated the average investment per program participant was $5,900 and the savings were $2,300 in avoided criminal justice system costs, and $1,300 in avoided victimization costs over a 30 month-period.

            The first drug court was established in 1989 in Miami, Florida with the goal of reducing criminal behavior and substance abuse and to free the courts and criminal justice system to handle other cases. Drug courts combine judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, graduated sanctions and rewards, and treatment to help substance-abusing offenders break the cycle of addiction -- and the crime that often accompanies it. Drug court judges work with prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and drug treatment specialists to require appropriate treatment for offenders, monitor their progress, and ensure the delivery of other services, like education or job skills training, to help offenders remain crime and drug-free. 

            Copies of Drug Courts: The Second Decade, are available on the NIJ Web site at and through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service Web site at:

            The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and an office: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy and OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be found at