cess rates of drug-using probationers over the years could be wrongly attributed to probation itself rather than to the inclusion of offenders with less severe drug and crime problems.
During the 1970s, the White House Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse joined with the Department of Justice to link treatment with criminal justice through a variety of initiatives, the most important of which was Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC). TASC represents a structured postarrest diversion process under which successful compliance with treatment conditions results in dismissal of the charges without conviction. The effectiveness of TASC was examined using a subsample of subjects drawn from the TOPS study. Hubbard et al. (1988) found that TASC clients stayed in treatment longer and reported less posttreatment drug use than clients who had entered treatment without criminal justice pressure. However, pretreatment differences between the samples and differences in the services received make these findings difficult to interpret. Anglin et al. (1999) used random assignment at two of five study sites. One site showed no beneficial effects of TASC; the other showed reductions in some drug use measures but not on criminal recidivism.
The substantial increase in drug arrests and of drug-involved offenders in the late 1980s and 1990s stimulated innovative efforts to link the criminal justice system with community treatment programs. Building on the TASC model, hundreds of jurisdictions have established drug courts (usually specialized dockets rather than separate courts) to identify drug users in the criminal justice system, refer them to treatment programs and monitor their progress (Belenko, 1998, U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997). Since all of the drug court initiatives are relatively new, outcome data are limited, and their efficacy remains open to question.
The renascent interest in drug treatment/criminal justice linkages heightens the need for rigorous studies of the therapeutic utility (and cost-effectiveness) of these coercive legal strategies. To what extent, and under what circumstances, does coerced treatment through the criminal justice system achieve beneficial effects, compared with voluntary treatment, through nontherapeutic criminal justice intervention or with no intervention at all? Although more than 20 evaluations have been conducted, various factors make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions