Overall, the outcome results of the Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) conducted by Urban Institute (2011e) showed that drug court participants did better than comparison offenders on most measures of drug use, criminal behavior, and incarceration. However, there are a few significant differences between the groups on measures of other psychosocial benefits, including socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, family support, and homelessness.
At the 6-month follow-up, 40 percent of drug court participants compared with 55 percent of comparison offenders self-reported that they had used at least one of eight measured substances—a significant difference. However, there was no significant difference in the percentage of drug court and comparison offenders self-reporting serious drug use (32 percent versus 40 percent). Drug court participants did average significantly fewer days of drug use per month (1.5 days versus 3.7) and fewer days of serious use per month (1.0 day versus 2.2 days).
By the 18-month follow-up, drug court participants reported significantly fewer occurrences of any drug use (56 percent versus 76 percent), serious drug use (41 percent versus 58 percent), days of use per month (2.1 days versus 4.8) and days of serious use per month (1.1 days versus 2.3).
The oral swab tests administered at the 18-month interview showed that drug court participants had a significantly lower rate of testing positive than the comparison offenders (29 percent versus 46 percent). However, when examining specific drugs that were tested, there were no significant differences between the groups in the rates of positive drug tests for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, or amphetamines.
At the 6-month follow-up, drug court participants were significantly less likely than comparison offenders to self-report engaging in any criminal behavior (28 percent versus 40 percent). Drug court participants also averaged significantly fewer instances of criminal acts (12.8 versus 34.1). During the following year (the 1-year period before the 18-month survey), drug court participants were still significantly less likely to engage in any criminal behavior (40 percent versus 53 percent). They also averaged fewer than half as many criminal acts (43.0 versus 88.2) and drug-related crimes (30.6 versus 83.1) as the comparison group.
When totaling responses across the two follow-up periods to create a complete set of 18-month criminal behavior measures, nearly half of the drug court group (49 percent) reported at least one criminal act, compared with 64 percent of the comparison group, a statistically significant difference. When counting the total number of criminal acts, drug court participants again averaged fewer than half as many criminal acts as the comparison group (52.5 versus 110.1).
However, when looking at criminal acts that were officially detected, there were no significant differences in the rearrest rate. Slightly more than half (52 percent) of the drug court group was rearrested during the 24-month follow-up period, compared with 62 percent of the comparison group. Drug court participants averaged fewer total rearrests (1.25 versus 1.66), but again the difference was not statistically significant.
Almost the same percentage of drug court participants and comparison offenders self-reported that they experienced at least some incarceration during the 18-month follow-up period (57 percent versus 58 percent, a nonsignificant difference). Drug court participants spent fewer days incarcerated (62.7 days versus 95.3); however, this difference also was not statistically significant.
The official data also showed that there were no significant differences in the percentage of drug court participants and comparison offenders who were sentenced to jail or prison during the 24-month follow-up period (19 percent versus 26 percent). However, drug court participants averaged significantly fewer days sentenced to jail or prison (32.1 days versus 59.4).
There were few significant differences between drug court participants and comparison offenders on measures of socioeconomic status (SES). At 6 months, significantly more drug court participants were enrolled in school (16 percent versus 8 percent), but that difference disappeared by 18 months. At the 18-month follow-up, significantly fewer drug court participants reported needing or wanting educational services or financial assistance. But on all other measures of SES, there were no significant differences.
Mental and Physical Health
There also were few significant differences on measures of mental and physical health. At 6 months, drug court participants rated their current emotional or mental health status significantly higher than comparison offenders, but the difference did not persist to 18 months. At both follow-up periods, drug court participants were significantly more likely to have been set up with public insurance (Medicare or Medicaid). But there were no other significant differences on any other measures.
There were also only a few significant differences on measures of family support and family conflict. At 6 months, drug court participants reported significantly fewer conflicts (0.70 versus 0.98), but again that difference disappeared by 18 months. At 18 months, drug court participants averaged significantly less family conflict, based on a three-item index of conflict. However, there were no other significant differences on any other measures of family support.
There were no significant differences in the rates of homeless and in the average level of interest to receive housing services.
As part of the Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), the Urban Institute (2011e) conducted a cost–benefit analysis. During the 18-month period of the study, the analysis showed that each drug court participant cost society (on average) $13,102, while each comparison offender who did not receive drug court cost society $19,310. The difference (the net benefits) totals $6,208, but it is not significant. The total benefit-to-cost ration is 1.92:1, meaning that for every $1 invested in drug courts $1.92 in costs is saved; however, this result also was not significant.
When examining the average costs of crime, arrest, and incarceration, drug courts were shown to prevent $11,566 per participant compared with those in the comparison group not receiving drug court, a result that was significant. However, the authors noted that when a small number of outliers were removed from the analysis (whose costs are mainly from the commission of serious crimes) most of the benefits of drug court disappear. This was interpreted as meaning that most of the crime reduction is from reductions in low-level offending, with only a few serious crimes being prevented.