Recidivism (Percent Rearrested)
Carey and Waller (2011) found the recidivism rate within 3 years for the treatment group (who participated in one of the 20 drug court programs in Oregon) was 48 percent, compared with 60 percent for the comparison group, a statistically significant difference.
Number of Rearrests
The average number of rearrests for the comparison group was 2.02, compared with 1.14 for the treatment group, a statistically significant difference. Participation across the 20 drug court programs in Oregon led to an average 44-percent reduction in number of rearrests within 3 years.
Carey and Waller (2011) used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate Oregon’s 20 adult drug courts—in Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Crook, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Umatilla, Union, Wasco, Washington, and Yam–Hill counties—to investigate whether the adult drug courts were cost-beneficial and to identify best practices across Oregon’s Drug Court program. The overall sample comprised 13,035 participants, with an average of 244 participants per court program. Sixty-seven percent were male, 84 percent were white, 9 percent were Latino, and 5 percent were black. The majority (75 percent) reported their drug of choice as methamphetamine, followed by marijuana (54 percent), alcohol (39 percent), cocaine (12 percent), and heroin (6 percent).
The treatment group of 5,655 drug court participants comprised all the offenders entered into the programs between January 2000 and December 2006, with recidivism tracked through May 2010. The data was gathered from the drug court database of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. The comparison group of 7,380 offenders was chosen in two stages. All drug court–eligible offenders were identified for the same period as the treatment group. Those who had previously been entered into drug courts or who were legally barred from participating were excluded after being identified within the Oregon Judicial Information Network database. The treatment group was then matched to the potential comparison sample (on aggregate within county) according to demographics and criminal history (county of residence, drug court–eligible charge, age, gender, race/ethnicity, prior drug charges, prior property charges, and prior person/violence charges). The treatment group was routed through the Oregon Drug Courts program, while the comparison group remained within the traditional criminal justice system.
Recidivism was analyzed based on rearrest data. Univariate analyses of covariance were used to compare the means of rearrest, as well as the means for time spent on probation, on parole, in jail, and in prison for both treatment and comparison group 3 years after the entry into the program (and comparison group equivalent). The analysis controlled for both demographics and criminal history, with the adjusted means being used to calculate costs. Crosstabs and chi-square analysis was used to identify differences in rearrests between the treatment and comparison group.
The study also looked at 335 aspects of adult drug court program implementation, part of the 10 Key Components of Drug Courts (National Association of Drug Court Professionals 1997), which are the operational guidelines for drug court implementation. Data on these practices were obtained through Web-based surveys completed by the drug courts. The researchers performed quantitative analysis to identify and measure practices that were conducive to lower recidivism, higher graduation rate, and greater cost savings. Many court practices were the same in all drug courts, making it impossible for this study to detect their potential positive effects. Where variation was deemed sufficient (if more than 15 percent of drug courts varied in the practice), however, these could be examined in relation to outcomes. Bivariate correlations were also used to examine the effects of demographics on the outcomes. T-tests were used to determine what court-level practices affected court-level outcomes.
The analysis of costs was calculated using budget information from fiscal year 2010. Carey and Waller (2011) used Transactional Institutional Cost Analysis (TICA) to calculate cost per transaction; costs associated with the drug court program (in seven drug court sites); costs associated with outcomes, that is, costs for transactions other than, and subsequent to, those associated with the drug court program (in all 20 drug court sites); and cost savings related to lower recidivism. The average initial cost of the drug court program was $16,411 per participant. The average cost for processing an offender in the traditional criminal justice system (“business as usual”) was $9,389, about half the drug court program cost. This latter calculation underestimated the total cost, since it did not include any treatment expenses.
The results of the study showed average 3-year cost savings to the State of $6,812 per person relative to the cost of doing “business as usual.” This figure increased to savings of $16,933 per person when victimization costs were included. The study also concluded that cost savings occurred from the beginning of participation in the program. Factoring in the initial program costs, as well as taxpayer and victimization costs, savings of $2.41 accrued in the public safety system for every $1 invested in the drug court program after 3 years. After 5 years, savings of $4.02 accrued for every $1 invested. The net savings of only the cohorts in this study throughout the 21 Oregon Drug Courts was estimated at nearly $120 million.
Despite the study by Carey and Waller (2011) showing significantly less recidivism for drug court participants, results varied considerably between different drug courts across Oregon. Thirty-eight practices were identified as showing the most promise in achieving higher graduation rates, lowering recidivism rates, and/or producing cost savings. These best practices ranged from how drug courts integrated alcohol and other drug treatment services into the justice system case processing to how abstinence was monitored. For example, the researchers found that drug courts where the judge, coordinator, both attorneys, probation, treatment, and law enforcement attended court sessions had less than half the recidivism and achieved 25 percent higher cost savings.
The inclusion of participants with prior or current violence charges was not related to program outcomes, indicating that the drug courts are equally effective for these offenders. Similarly, accepting non–drug use charges (drug trafficking, property offenses, and forgery) was significantly related to lower recidivism.