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Drug Courts and Their Efficiency Essay (Critical Writing)



The growing rates of incarceration among people, who take drugs, prompted legislators to adopt different strategies in order to address this issue. Drug courts are believed to be one of the solutions to this problem. This paper is aimed at examining the functioning of these institutions and their efficiency.

These are the main questions that should be examined. Overall, it is possible to say that these organizations can reduce the level of recidivism among drug offenders and help them reintegrate into the society. To a great extent, these institutions can help people cope with their addition. However, they can be effective only in those cases when if there are well-developed rehabilitation programs that support people who are in the urgent need of help; otherwise this policy may not attend the results expected by the community.

Moreover, much attention should be paid to the use of resources. Policy-makers should remember about opportunity costs associated with drug courts. Still despite these limitations, one can say that these organizations can help community develop better tools of crime prevention. This is the main thesis that should be analyzed more closely.

The main rationale for the establishment of drug courts

There are several reasons why that made policy-makers to consider some alternatives to existing methods of crime prevention. In particular, one can speak about the increasing rates of recidivism among people who had been previously convicted of drug offences (Longshore, Turner, Wenzel, & Morral, 2001, p. 7).

Additionally, substance abusers are overrepresented in the criminal justice system (Boyum & Kleiman, 2002). As a rule, their dependence on substances is the underlying factor that increases the likelihood of their deviance (Boyum & Kleiman, 2002). In many cases, these individuals are not able to reintegrate themselves in the society because very often they remain addicted to substances (Bennett 2005).

Moreover, in many cases, these people can commit even more serious felonies provided that their addiction is not treated effectively (Franco 2011). Very often legislators advocate the use of minimum sentences on criminals; however, this policy is not sufficient for reducing the rates of recidivism (Waller, 2008). Thus, one can speak about the existence of a vicious cycle that should be broken in some way.

This is one of the details that researchers focus on (Boyum & Kleiman, 2002). Thus, the absence of an effective policy is the main factor that led to the establishment of drug courts. These institutions were supposed to be response to this problem. It should be noted that drug courts examine only non-violent offences such as possession of cannabis, the purchase of drugs with the help of forged prescriptions, or small-scale dealing.

The offenders are obliged to undergo such procedures as in-patient detoxification and rehabilitation (Franco 2011, p. 20). Drug courts do not interact with individuals that can pose a threat to the life or health of other people. In most cases, there is no need to incarcerate these people. This is one of the issues that can be distinguished.

The efficiency of these institutions

There are various studies are aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of drug courts. In order to cope with this task, researchers compare the experiences of people who participated in drug court programs and those offenders who did not (Fulkerson, 2012). They pay attention to various indicators such the rates of recidivism or people’s ability to cope with drug addiction (Fulkerson, 2012).

This is the main peculiarity of their research methodology. These academic sources can be divided into several groups. First, one can mention that many authors emphasize the reduced rates of recidivism. For example, according Cassia Spohn et al. (2001), people, who participated in drug courts programs, were less likely to be arrested for misdemeanor (p. 160).

For instance, 42.1 of these people part were re-arrested; yet, this rate was 60.8 % for people who were tried in conventional courts (Spohn et al., 2001, p. 160). Moreover, these organizations can benefit juvenile offenders who are dependent on substances (Torgensen, Buttars, Norman, & Bailey 2004). Additionally, the participation in drug courts reducing the risk of family conflicts (Green & Rempel, 2012, p. 169).

Finally, such rehabilitation programs can people who may have various forms of addiction. This is one of the improvements that these organizations can bring. However, much attention should be paid to characteristics of people who took part in this program. Much attention should be paid such characteristics as the support of close relatives, peer pressure, employment opportunities, and many other forces that can influence a person’s behavior.

This question is not closely examined in this research articles. This is one of the limitations that should not be overlooked by policy-makers who should evaluate the performance of drug courts programs. They should pay more attention to the factors that increase the efficiency of drug courts because in this way, they can make this policy more productive. This step is important for helping people reintegrate into the community.

Other researcher point out that the efficiency of drug courts programs depends on such criteria, as marital status, education, or employment opportunities.

For example, Allison Mateyoke-Scrivner et al (2004) point out that older offenders are more likely to complete a rehabilitation program (p. 617). Additionally, researchers note that people with the history of intravenous drug use are less likely to rehabilitate (Roll, Prendergast, Richardson, Burdon, & Ramirez, 2005, p. 641). This form of addiction is usually more difficult to overcome (Roll et al., 2005).

Moreover, researchers point out the offenders, who have already undergone drug treatment, are less likely to benefit from rehabilitation programs (Miller & Shutt, 2001, p. 91). Such individuals have already made an attempt to struggle with their dependence but some of them have lost confidence in their ability to overcome their addiction. Certainly, these studies indicate at the efficiency of drug courts.

However, they also show that some participants can derive more benefits from the treatment that drug courts offer (Roll et al., 2005). This is one of the main aspects that should be considered by legislators, policy-makers as well medical workers who develop rehabilitation programs. They should also bear in mind that some drug offenders will find it more difficult to reintegrate into the community. Legal professionals can anticipate the difficulties that they can encounter in the future.

Overall, scholars, who examine this question, acknowledge that their studies cannot capture the complexity of social or economic factors that can shape the choices that drug offenders can take. As it has been said before, one can speak about employment opportunities or the support of relatives.

Additionally, one should pay attention to the competence of people who should provide psychological assistance to drug offenders. These professionals should be able to find an approach to various individuals who may represent different educational backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures and so forth (Fulkerson, 2012). Therefore, one cannot argue the behavior of separate offenders can be attributed only to the role of drug courts. More attention should be paid to the competence of separate professionals, rather than organizations.

This is one of the limitations that should be taken into account. Nevertheless, one can say that such forces always play an important role, but their presence does not mean that drug courts are not necessary. These organizations create a framework through which offenders can get access to efficient treatment. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward in support of this policy.

Yet, there are researchers, who are highly skeptical about the efficiency of drug courts. One of their arguments is that there are many hidden costs of drug costs. In particular, the money which has been invested in these institutions might have been directed to other areas such as education, healthcare, or infrastructure (Carey & Finigan 2004).

They are important for creating opportunities to community members and researchers are aware of these concerns (Carey & Finigan 2004). Thus, one can argue that policy-makers should consider the interest of other stakeholders. This is one of the objections that can be raised.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the effects of drug-related crimes can be much more expensive because people, who cannot cope with their addiction to drugs, can pose a great threat to the lives, health, and property of many people (Carey & Finigan 2004). By overlooking this problem, the society can be exposed to various risks (Carey & Finigan 2004). This is one of the details that should not be overlooked by legislators. Therefore, the criticism of drug courts may not always be justified.

Secondly, the critics of drugs courts say that the alleged successes of drug courts are often based on cherry picking. In other words, these institutions select only those offenders who are more likely to complete a rehabilitation program (Barnes, Miller, Miller, & Gibson, 2008, p. 166). As a rule, these organizations lay stress on screening interviews which can determine whether an individual can benefit from the rehabilitation program (Barnes et al., 2008, p. 166). For instance, people, who have prior convictions, are less likely to qualify for drug courts programs (Duke, 2012; Shaffer 2011).

Moreover, there are different forms of addition. Some of them are very difficult to treat. The main problem is that drug courts do not accept people with this form of dependence. Therefore, one can argue that such organizations may not work with people who urgently need their assistance. The adoption of this strategy is important for explaining the effectiveness of drug courts. However, this policy may not necessarily result in the reduction of recidivism among drug offenders.

These examples are also vital for objective evaluation of drug programs. Therefore, while evaluating various studies related to drug courts, researchers should closely examine the way in which these organizations select the participants for their programs. This examination is important for the validity of the research methodology.

However, one can provide several objections to the criticisms of drug courts. First of all, one can say that screening interviews are necessary because one has to identify possible mental disorders and cognitive deficiencies. This information is necessary for determining whether a person can pose a danger to the lives of others (Miller & Shutt, 2001). Therefore, legislators should make sure that the participants are able to benefit from these programs.

Thus, one cannot say that screening interviews are not necessary because they are important for eliminating many risks. Secondly, the instances of cherry picking can be eliminated by introducing clear eligibility standards. The selection should not be based on the subjective opinion. These are the main details that should be considered by policy-makers who need to evaluate the positive and negative aspects of adopting this policy. These are one of the main points that can be made.


These examples suggest that the efficiency of drug courts is a subject of many studies. Numerous studies have confirmed that these institutions can benefit many people. In particular, they are able to overcome their dependence on drugs and avoid the risks of recidivism. However, it is important to examine possible criticisms that are related to such a practice as cherry picking because it can undermine the very goal of the organizations.

These organizations should develop policies ensuring that people are not denied the access to rehabilitation programs because drug courts want to improve their performance indicators. Furthermore, it is vital to make sure that the resources allocated to these institutions are effectively used. Provided that these issues are addressed properly, drug courts can become an effective solution to crime. These are the main details that should be considered.

Reference List

Barnes, J. C., Miller, J. M., Miller, H. V., & Gibson, C. (2008). Juvenile drug court program admission, demeanor and cherry-picking: A research note. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 33(2), 166-176.

Bennett, T. (2005). The Association Between Multiple Drug Misuse and Crime. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 49(1), 63-81.

Boyum, D., & Kleiman, M. (2002) Substance abuse policy from a crime-control perspective. In J. Wilson & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Crime (2nd. Ed.) (pp. 95-1 11). San Franciscom, NC: ICS Press.

Carey, S. & Finigan, M. (2004). A Detailed Cost Analysis in a Mature Drug Court

Setting A Cost-Benefit Evaluation of the Multnomah County Drug Court. Journal of Contemporary Criminal, 20(3), 315-338.

Duke, K. (2012). From Crime to Recovery The Reframing of British Drugs Policy? Journal of Drug Issues, 43(1), 39-55.

Franco, C. (2011). Drug courts: Background, Effectiveness and Policy Issues for Congress. Journal Of Current Issues In Crime, Law & Law Enforcement, 4(1), 19-50.

Fulkerson, A. (2012). Understanding Success and Nonsuccess in the Drug Court, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57(10), 1297-1316.

Green, M., & Rempel, M. (2012). Beyond crime and drug use: Do adult drug courts produce other psychosocial benefits? Journal of Drug Issues, 42(2), 156-177.

Longshore, D., Turner, S., Wenzel, S., & Morral, A (2001). Drug courts: A conceptual framework. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(1), 7-25.

Mateyoke-Scrivner, A., Webster, J., Staton, M., & Leukefeld, C. (2004). Treatment Retention Predictors of Drug Court Participants in a Rural State. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 30(3), 605-625.

Miller, J., & Shutt, J. (2001). Considering the need for empirically grounded drug court screening mechanisms. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(1), 91-106.

Roll, J., Prendergast, M., Richardson, K., Burdon, W., & Ramirez, A. (2005).

Identifying Predictors of Treatment Outcome in a Drug Court Program. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 30(3), 605-625.

Shaffer, D. (2011). Outcomes Among Drug Court Participants: Does Drug of Choice Matter? Journal of Drug Issues, 31(1), 259-291.

Spohn, C., Piper, R. K., Martin, T., & Erika, D. F. (2001). Drug courts and recidivism: The results of an evaluation using two comparison groups and multiple indicators of recidivism. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(1), 149-176.

Torgensen, K., Buttars, D. C., Norman, S. W., & Bailey, S. (2004). How drug courts reduce substance abuse recidivism. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 32(4), 69-72.

Waller, B. (2008). You decide!: current debates in criminal justice. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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