. "Appendix E: Linking Treatment to Punishment: An Evaluation of Drug Treatment in the Criminal Justice System." Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2001.
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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
more likely to stay off drugs than those who underwent traditional probation, even when they are not being monitored or subject to the threat of punishment.
Finally, while it is understandable why study subjects in Maricopa were randomly assigned to either a drug court or traditional probation, it should be noted that traditional probation does not qualify as a no-intervention control group. After all, the study subjects on traditional probation were being monitored and punished for any infractions. Hence, this study compares drug court participants, who receive treatment, monitoring, and sanctions, with a traditional probation group that receives the monitoring and sanctions associated with probation. The study does not include a no-treatment/no-supervision control group who experience no criminal justice interventions. This is unfortunate given the fact that the criminal justice net has been widened in recent years to include many minor drug users who look little different from their age-mates who manage to mature out of drugs without treatment or supervision. This study can cast little light on whether any reductions in drug use made by either drug court study subjects or study subjects on traditional probation are due to punishment or treatment or both, or simply the process of maturing out of drug use that occurs at that age.
• Cost Savings. It is likely that future evaluations will make an effort to determine if drug courts can achieve cost savings. To achieve cost savings, these programs must significantly reduce the drug use and criminal behavior of program participants. If they succeed, drug court program graduates will be less likely to be sent to jail for extended periods of incarceration, and they will be less likely to be sent to more expensive prisons for longer sentences (Inciardi et al., 1996).
To date, no systematic analysis exists to determine whether drug courts generate cost savings (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997; Belenko, 1998). However, any attempt to assess cost savings will require some understanding of what types of people end up in drug courts. If drug courts mainly draw people who would otherwise go to prison or jail for extended periods, and if they succeed in reducing their criminal behavior and drug use, then they are likely to generate very impressive cost savings. If they mainly draw people who might otherwise undergo supervision with traditional probation, then they will have to be very successful in reducing post-program drug relapses and criminal recidivism to justify higher costs than those associated with traditional probation. Given the preliminary nature of much of the drug court data, it is difficult to determine if alternative court dispositions for drug court participants would be more or less expensive.