The program offers an alternative to traditional processing in the juvenile justice system by guiding youths with substance- abusing problems into treatment. The goal is to reduce youths’ use of drugs and criminal behavior. The program is rated Promising. At the 2-year follow up, program participants had significantly fewer overall and drug-related rearrests than a matched comparison group.
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
The Baltimore County Juvenile Drug Court (BCJDC) offers an alternative to traditional processing in the juvenile justice system by guiding youths with substance-abusing problems into treatment. The goal is to reduce youths’ use of drugs and criminal behavior. Intensive support is provided to eligible juveniles with substance-abusing problems who agree to live an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle. The BCJDC is located in East, West, and Central Baltimore County, Maryland (Baltimore County is outside of Baltimore City).
To be eligible to participate in the BCJDC, youths must be between the ages of 13 and 17 years. Youths must also admit to drug or alcohol abuse and be amenable to treatment. In addition, a parent or guardian must be willing to participate and support the youth. The program initially targeted juveniles who committed nonviolent offenses; however, the program has expanded to include youths who have committed violent offenses in the past (such as misdemeanor assaults).
The drug court includes the BCJDC program coordinator, the drug court judge and court administrator, an assistant state’s attorney, the public defender (PD), a probation agent (case manager) from the Department of Justice Services (DJS), and an addictions counselor from the Bureau of Substance Abuse.
Participants are usually referred to the BCJDC by their DJS case manager. The State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) sends a letter to the youth, explaining the eligibility criteria for the program and advising them to seek counsel (either a private attorney or public defender). The letter is also forwarded to the PD. The PD may counsel his or her client about participation in the program at the arraignment. Prior to participating in the program, the youth meets with the BCJDC coordinator to discuss the program requirements and interest in participation. Interested youths’ cases are set for adjudication on the next BJCDC hearing date.
The BJCDC has four phases. The first two phases are highly structured and include frequent treatment sessions, supervision meetings, and drug testing. The last two phases are designed as aftercare phases, which involve decreasing supervision and treatment sessions and focus on relapse prevention, reentry, garnering family support, and the availability of other resources in the community. The program takes about 12 months to complete and the four program locations have a combined capacity to serve approximately 80 youths per year.
During Phase 1 (which usually lasts about 4 months), attendance at drug court hearings is required at least twice a month. Youths also meet weekly with their DJS case manager. An educational plan and community service arrangement is made for each participant. Twice a week, the youth must participate in individual treatment sessions with an addictions counselor, and attend a group session once a week. Family counseling also occurs on a monthly basis. A minimum of one random urinalysis and saliva test is conducted each week.
Phase 2 last about 3 months and has fewer requirements than Phase 1. This phase focuses on education goals. The participants’ requirements to remain in contact with the DJS case manager, attend individual and group counseling sessions and court hearings, and complete drug tests are the same as in Phase 1. To advance to the next phase, the youth must have no positive drug tests for the last 45 days of Phase 2. The youth must also adhere to a family contract and either be employed or in school, or in a training program.
Phase 3 last approximately 90 days, and focuses on relapse prevention. Drug court hearing attendance is decreased to once per month. Saliva testing is no longer required, but one random urinalysis per week is still required. Weekly individual counseling sessions continue; however, group counseling sessions are no longer required. Family meetings continue to take place monthly. To advance to the next phase, the youth must have no positive drug tests for the last 60 days of Phase 3.
Phase 4 last about 2 months, and focuses on preparing youths for reentry outside of the BCJDC program. Attendance at court hearings once per month is still required. Contact with the DJS case manager is required as needed, and one random urinalysis must occur each week. An individual therapy and aftercare plan is developed and a pre-discharge family meeting is held in which the aftercare plan is discussed.
Throughout the program, youths in the BCJDC are rewarded for achieving and maintaining treatment goals. Incentives include praise from the judge or other drug court team members at the court hearings, progress pins, early advancement to the next phase of the program, participation in group activities (such as mini-golf and sporting events), and less restrictive curfew hours. Sanctions are also handed out for unacceptable behavior. At the beginning of the program, youths are given a list of potential sanctions. These include community service, community detention, modified curfew hours, and electronic monitoring.
Youths can graduate the BCJDC when all program requirements have been met. Upon graduating from the program, charges against the youth may be dismissed, unless denied by the SAO, especially if the victim is opposed to the decision. Completely non-compliant youths are terminated from the program and often committed to placement or regular probation.
Overall, Mackin and colleagues (2010) found that the Baltimore County Juvenile Drug Court (BCJDC) significantly decreased rearrest rates and the number of rearrests of program participants, both overall and specifically for drug charges.
Average Number of Drug Rearrests
Juveniles in the BCJDC program had a significantly lower average number of rearrests for drug charges over the 2-year, follow-up period, compared with juveniles in the comparison group.
Percent of Juveniles with Drug Rearrests
Significantly fewer BCJDC program participants were rearrested for drug charges at the 2-year follow up (about 25 percent), compared with juveniles in the comparison group (about 35 percent).
Average Number of Total Rearrests
Juveniles in the BCJDC program had a significantly lower average number of rearrests for any charge (about 1.5), compared with the juveniles in the comparison group (about 3.0) at 2 years post-program.
Percent of Juveniles with Total Rearrests
At the 2-year follow up, significantly fewer BCJDC program participants were rearrested for any charge (56 percent), compared with juveniles in the comparison group (76 percent).
Chronic offenders were defined as juveniles who had three or more arrests during the 2-year, follow-up period. Significantly fewer BCJDC program participants were chronic offenders (20 percent), compared with the comparison group juveniles (42 percent).
Mackin and colleagues (2010) conducted an outcome and cost study of the Baltimore County Juvenile Drug Court (BCJDC) program. The study focused on outcomes over a 2-year, follow-up period for program participants (n=186) and a matched comparison group (n=147). Juveniles in the BCJDC program group were those who had entered the program between March 2003 and September 2008. The comparison group was selected from a group of juveniles who were eligible to participate in the program, but did not participate for various reasons (e.g., they had not been identified as a potential participant at the time of arrest, they had not been referred to the program, or they had opted out of the program). To be eligible for the comparison group, juveniles had to be under 18 years old, have no history of violent offenses or drug trafficking, reside in Baltimore County, and be under a moderate, high, or intensive level of juvenile supervision during the study period.
BCJDC program participants were matched to comparison juveniles on demographic variables (age, gender, and ethnicity), the type of charge for the eligible arrest, level of supervision, and prior criminal history. After the matching procedures, there were no significant differences between the program participants and the comparison group juveniles on any of the demographic characteristics. The two groups were 88 percent male and were, on average, 15 years of age at the eligible arrest date. The two groups were approximately 68 percent white and 32 percent nonwhite (no other ethnicities were specified in the study).
Data was collected from the BCJDC office, the ASSIST database of the Department of Juvenile Services, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Maryland Judicial Information System, the Substance Abuse Management Information System (SAMIS), the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Automated Tracking Systems, and the Statewide Maryland Automated Record Tracking (SMART) system.
The primary outcome of interest was recidivism, which was defined as any new juvenile arrest after program entry (the study did not include non-criminal events, such as traffic citations). Univariate analysis of variance was performed to compare the average number of rearrests for the BCJDC program group and the comparison group. Crosstabs were run to examine the difference in recidivism rates (i.e., the percentage of youths rearrested in the program group and comparison group). Chi-square analyses were used to identify any significant differences in rearrest rates between the two groups.
The follow-up period for program participants was 2 years, following program entry. For the comparison group, an equivalent start date was calculated by adding 100 days to their eligible arrest date (program participants took about 100 days from the eligible case arrest date to entry into the BCJDC program).
Mackin and colleagues (2010) conducted a cost benefit analysis of the Baltimore County Juvenile Drug Court (BCJDC) program. The program investment costs were estimated to be approximately $56,631 per BCJDC participant per year.
Over the 2-year, follow-up period of the study, the authors found that the cost due to recidivism of program participants was $28,416 per BCJDC participant, compared with $37,178 per comparison youth. This resulted in a savings of $8,762 per program participant over the 2-year study period (regardless of whether they graduated).
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
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:
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types|
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Drug and alcohol offenses|
| ||Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances |