Brook Kearley, a graduate student with the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, was recently awarded a dissertation fellowship from the National Institute of Justice for her work entitled, Long Term Effects of Drug Court Participation: Evidence from a 15-year Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial.
Recent meta-analyses of drug court evaluations conclude that drug courts are a more effective criminal justice response for drug offenders than traditional probation processing, but their long-term effects are unknown and it is not clear whether they are effective with offenders with significant criminal history records and chronic drug abusing histories. One of the most rigorous primary studies to date is the randomized trial of the Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court (BCDTC). Three-year follow-up data from this study showed that participation in the program reduced official reports of recidivism and that subjects self-reported less crime and substance use than did controls. These positive changes after three years are promising, but the ultimate goal of drug court programs is long-term, meaningful change for offenders. No long-term evaluations of drug courts have yet been conducted. It is critical to assess the extent to which early behavior change due to participation in drug court is converted into social capital that continues to accrue benefits throughout the life course. By advancing our understanding of the long-term effects of drug court programs, this project will provide the criminal justice field with a greater understanding of the efficacy of drug courts with high risk populations.
The proposed 18-month project will compare 15-year recidivism, incarceration, and mortality outcomes for the 235 BCDTC subjects. The project is unique in that it extends one of the few randomized trials of an established drug court and includes a group of offenders with substantial criminal and substance abuse histories. Study subjects are adult arrestees who were assigned randomly to receive either BCDTC services or treatment as usual in the traditional court. The sample is 89% African American and 74% male. Subjects had considerable criminal histories at intake and were primarily opiate addicted. The study will supplement the previously obtained administrative and self-report data with an additional 12 years of recidivism data, as well as days spent incarcerated in jail and prison. Mortality data for the 15-year period will also be obtained. Regression models will test for group differences both at the 15-year endpoint and in the parameters describing growth patterns over the 15-year period.