Utah Juvenile Drug Courts (JDCs) offer substance abuse treatment and programming to juveniles in an effort to reduce participants’ alcohol and other drug (AOD) offenses and delinquency offenses. Although JDCs throughout Utah vary from one court to another, the basic drug court philosophy and components are the same. The basic elements of the drug court model include 1) screening and assessment, 2) an individualized treatment plan, 3) judicial supervision, 4) community-based treatment, 5) a designated courtroom, 6) regular status hearings, 7) accountability and compliance monitoring, 8) sanctions and incentives, 9) comprehensive services, 10) a non-adversarial team approach, and 11) case dismissal or sentence reduction for successful completers.
Youths served by the Utah JDCs have varying backgrounds and offense histories, but generally the courts accept juveniles who have been charged with an AOD offense.
The Utah JDCs vary in their treatment modality, treatment intensity, frequency of random drug testing, and judicial-hearing frequency. For example, although the majority of courts in Utah use individual and group treatment, there is one court that primarily uses group treatment. Treatment intensity across courts could include any of the following: a 30-day social detox followed by outpatient treatment, primarily outpatient treatment with intensive outpatient treatment as needed, outpatient treatment only, or both outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. Similarly, random drug testing could include testing by phase (3 times per week in phase 1, and 1 time per week in phase 4); testing by priority assignment (2 times per month if low assignment, and 5–6 times per month if high assignment; or 4–6 times per month if low assignment, and 10–12 times per month if high assignment); or simply 3 times per month. Finally, juvenile hearing frequency also varies across the Utah JDCs: specific courts may hold review hearings biweekly, bimonthly, or once a month at a minimum.
The Utah JDCs are similar to other JDCs in that they are grounded in the theoretical perspective of therapeutic justice or jurisprudence. Therapeutic jurisprudence holds that interactions between judicial staff and defendants, the structure and organization of the court proceedings, and the legal rules and policies should all be dealt with in a manner that encourages health and positive growth (Shaffer 2011). Drug courts aim to provide treatment to participants while reducing recidivism; however, the type of treatment provided is not standardized (Hickert et al. 2011).