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Program Profile: Utah Juvenile Drug Courts

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on November 25, 2014

Program Summary

Offers substance abuse treatment and programming for juveniles in an effort to reduce participants’ alcohol, drug and delinquency offenses. The program is rated Promising. The program was shown to significantly reduce delinquency and criminal offenses, but not alcohol and other drug offenses.

Program Description

Program Goals
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.

Target Population
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.

Program Components
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.

Program Theory
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). 

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
AOD Recidivism
Hickert and colleagues (2011) found no significant differences for participants in the JDCs compared with participants in the probation comparison group at any of the follow-up time points (3 to 30 months) with regard to AOD recidivism.

Delinquency and Criminal Recidivism
At all follow-up points (3 to 30 months), there were significant differences in delinquency and criminal offenses between the treatment and comparison groups. JDC participants had statistically significantly fewer delinquency and criminal offenses than probationers; this group difference increased with each follow-up period. For example, at the 12-month follow-up period, 24 percent of the treatment group recidivated, compared with 35 percent of the comparison group. At the 30-month follow-up period, 34 percent of the treatment group had recidivated, compared with 48 percent of the comparison group. 

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To analyze the impact of the Utah Juvenile Drug Courts (JDCs), Hickert and colleagues (2011) used a quasi-experimental design. The treatment group consisted of participants in Utah’s four largest JDCs from January 2003 to May 2007. Two of the juvenile drug courts served youths who were on probation, whereas the other two drug courts were considered to be an alternative to probation. The comparison probation group was selected from the state juvenile court database: youths were selected if they had an AOD offense that resulted in probation between 2003 and 2007. An AOD offense could include being a minor in possession, driving under the influence (DUI), or possessing a controlled substance. If a youth had more than one offense, the study authors randomly selected one offense as the primary one. Further, youths were excluded from the comparison group if they had ever participated in a JDC. Demographic and court involvement measures were obtained from the state juvenile database. The demographic variables included date of birth, gender, and race/ethnicity. Race/ethnicity was divided into two categories: white/non-Hispanic; and Hispanic/other race, which included African American, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Asian. Court involvement measures included offense type, offense date, and referral date.

The final sample included 622 participants in the treatment group, and 596 participants in the comparison group. Both the treatment and comparison groups were composed of predominately white/nonminority males, with an average age of 14 years at their first juvenile offense. There were notable group differences within the treatment group, (i.e., age at first offense, age at first AOD offense, AOD prior offenses, delinquency prior offenses, and total prior offenses) as each court slightly differed from the other on eligibility criteria as well as treatment and programming. Juvenile Drug Courts A and D accept youths who have more severe court histories and who have also been on probation. Juvenile Drug Courts B and C target youths with minor court histories, as both courts target youths earlier in their delinquency trajectories.

After controlling for any significant differences that were found in the bivariate analysis, two logistic regressions were used to measure the impact of JDCs on AOD recidivism and delinquency/criminal recidivism at 3-to 30-month follow-ups, after youths had exited the juvenile drug court or probation.

It is important to note that although the comparison group was matched on similar offenses, the comparison group had significantly more juvenile court histories than the treatment group (both AOD and delinquency offenses). Further, some of the comparison group participants may have received treatment similar to the treatment group. 

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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Hickert, Audrey, Erin Becker, Moises Prospero, and Kristina Moleni. 2011. “Impact of Juvenile Drug Courts on Drug Use and Criminal Behavior.” OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice 1(1):60–77.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Shaffer, Deborah. 2011. “Looking Inside the Black Box of Drug Courts: A Meta-analytic Review.” Justice Quarterly 28(3): 493-521.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262963276_Looking_Inside_the_Black_Box_of_Drug_Courts_A_Meta-Analytic_Review
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Juvenile Drug Courts
Juvenile drug courts are dockets within juvenile courts for cases involving substance abusing youth in need of specialized treatment services. The focus is on providing treatment to eligible, drug-involved juvenile offenders with the goal of reducing recidivism and substance abuse. The practice is rated Promising in reducing recidivism rates, and No Effects for reducing drug-related offenses or drug use.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Drug and alcohol offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances



Juvenile Diversion Programs
An intervention strategy that redirects youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system, while still holding them accountable for their actions. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism rates of juveniles who participated in diversion programming compared with juveniles who were formally processed in the justice system.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 15 - 17

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Courts

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Alternatives to Detention, Diversion, Drug Court, Group Therapy, Individual Therapy, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Director:
Rick Schwermer
Assistant State Court Administrator
Utah Administrative Office of the Courts
450 South State
Salt Lake City UT 84114
Phone: 801.578.3800
Website
Email

Researcher:
Erin Becker Worwood
Researcher
Utah Criminal Justice Center, University of Utah
393 South 1500 East, Rm. 231
Salt Lake City UT 84112
Website
Email

Training and TA Provider:
Dennis Fuchs
Judge (Ret.)
Utah Administrative Office of the Courts
450 South State
Salt Lake City UT 84114
Phone: 801.578.3800
Website
Email