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How Do Drug Courts Work?

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Document date: November 05, 2009
Released online: March 05, 2010


NIJ's Multi-Site Evaluation of Adult Drug Courts will report on a mediation analysis to empirically test theoretical pathways to desistance. The analysis considers the theoretical mechanisms through which drug court practices are meant to impact outcomes and how such pathways can be operationalized. A path model is proposed that delineates how drug-court practices affect modifications in behaviors and attitudes, and how these changes affect outcomes. Proposed mediators include changes in: perceived risk and reward (deterrence), perceived legitimacy, and motivation to alter one's behavior. The analysis will suggest the pathways that are most crucial to desistance and the most effective drug-court components that impact these pathways.

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Presentation Overview

  • Background
  • Present Study (MADCE)
  • Proposed Model
  • Analytic Strategy
  • Results
  • Next Steps


  • Prior research shows drug courts work
  • Few studies show how; key exception below
    — Gottfredson, Kearley, Najaka, and Rocha. 2007. "How Drug Treatment Courts Work: An Analysis of Mediators." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 44(1): 3-35.

Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation

  • Study overview

Description of Variables

  • Baseline variables
    — Drug court participation
    — Controls: age, race, gender, education, income, married/relationship, income, minor children, primary drug of choice, prior arrests
  • Moderators
    — Number of drug tests, court appearances, case management contacts, sanctions, days in treatment, depression, ASPD, family drug use
  • Mediators
    — Deterrence, attitude toward judge, readiness for change
  • Outcome
    — Drug use

(End of excerpt. The Entire Presentation is available in PDF format.)

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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