. "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
ministered by the courts will have the effect of “manufacturing” commitment in people who were not previously committed.
Moreover, there is a possibility that some of the therapeutic services offered by drug courts may actually generate client resistance to treatment. In particular, the individual and group counseling offered by a number of outpatient drug-free programs and therapeutic communities may be inappropriate for some clients. Working-class and low-income clients, in particular, have been known to resist this type of therapy because they find it difficult to confide personal matters to a stranger or a group of strangers in counseling sessions (Currie, 1993; Covington, 1997). For these clients, treatment may be wholly ineffective and yet, if they fail to attend sessions, they may be punished with “motivational” jail time or be returned to court to be prosecuted for their original crime. In such cases, requiring clients to participate in these potentially alienating therapies may set some up to fail in treatment and be subjected to further sanctions.
Finally, preliminary research suggests that drug courts may do well with those who already have a stake in conformity. It also suggests that they are not very effective with those who lack such a stake. In other words, they fail with the clients who are most likely to fail in other types of treatment, including the unemployed, the less educated, and those using hard drugs like cocaine (Peters et al., 1999). If this is borne out in future research, it means that drug courts may ultimately be incapable of changing those who are most likely to burden the courts.
Clear-cut answers to questions as to whether programs that link treatment to punishment can effect long-term changes in client drug-using and criminal behavior are difficult to come by. Evaluations of these programs have not been very revealing because many of these studies have been hobbled by poor study designs. For one thing, study subjects are not always randomly assigned to treatment or no-treatment control groups, making it difficult to know whether client successes are due to program effects or to a client’s commitment to abstain from drug use. Equally worrisome is the problem of identifying valid outcome measures of drug use and criminal behavior in the follow-up period. While client self-reports of drug use and crime have been used to measure outcomes in the follow-up, using self-reports with respondents who have recently been punished for their drug use may result in severe problems with client underreporting. Rearrests, convictions, or reincarcerations are also questionable measures, because so few episodes of drug use or criminal behavior come to the attention of the criminal justice system and get re-