Further Evidence of Racial Disparities in Drug Court Outcomes: Enhancing Service-Delivery to Reduce Criminal Recidivism Rates for Non-White Participants [2019]

The first drug court began in 1989, and since their inception, they have expanded to over 3,000 in the United States and United States territories. The long-term goal of drug courts is to reduce criminal recidivism rates for nonviolent offenders who have substance use disorders. This study adds to the literature by using secondary data to compare criminal recidivism rates between drug court participants (n = 163) and probationers who had diagnosed substance use disorders and arrests that were eligible for drug court but they did probation instead (n = 185). Criminal recidivism was measured up to 36 months post drug court/probation discharge, which provides a more accurate assessment of the long-term effectiveness of drug court. Furthermore, this study identified which drug court participants were most likely to recidivate. Drug court participants were less likely to recidivate than the probation group. However, differences between the two groups may have contributed to the difference in criminal recidivism rates and also suggest that screening criteria may exclude some non-White participants from drug court. Non-white participants were more likely to recidivate than their White counterparts. Implications for future research and drug court practice are discussed, focusing on enhancing the service-delivery of education and employment opportunities to non-White drug court participants.

John Robert Gallagher, Elizabeth A. Wahler & Elyse Lefebvre
Journal of Social Service Research, 27 Feb 2019