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US: Drug Courts success in reducing drug taking and crime

19th July 2011

A large study of Drug Courts in the United States has illustrated the success of the Courts in reducing both drug taking and crime. The study, known as the Multi-State Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), evaluated the work and outcomes of a large number of Courts in different States. It found that people who had undertaken programmes through the Drug Court, rather than moved through the conventional Court system or other programmes, had significantly lower rates of drug relapse (56% as opposed to 76% relapse for those who did not access the Drug Court. Where there was drug taking this tended to be of less serious drugs. Those in the Drug Court programmes were also less likely to report committing crime (40% compared to 53% of others) and those who committed crimes committed significantly fewer. The Report also highlighted the cost savings made by the Drug Courts through lower rates of recidivism and therefore decreased levels of costly imprisonment. 

There is also a Drug Treatment Court in Ireland, based in Dublin, which has reported lower recidivism rates in its evaluations. However studies in Ireland have not been as extensive as the MADCE, nor are Drug Courts as long in existence or as widely used as in the US. This evidence from the US, combined with the limited evidence of Drug Court success in Ireland, indicate that Drug Courts and related programmes are a useful alternative to custody.  

Read more:

MADCE Executive Summary available here

MADCE More Information and Full Report here

Irish Drug Treatment Court Programme here