Drug courts reach new milestone, with more than 3,000 nationwide, NADCP announces

The drug court movement continues to expand throughout the United States, with 3,057 courts now operating in the United States, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) announced. This marks a 24 percent increase in the number of drug courts in the last five years.

A new report released Tuesday by NADCP details the expansion of drug courts and other treatment court models, including DWI courts and veterans treatment courts, as well as the latest research. The full report, “Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts in the United States,” is available at Allrise.org/pcp. 

Additional key findings from the report include:

• Drug courts served more than 127,000 individuals in 2014. 

• Drug courts divert cases away from prison or lengthy jail time. Nearly one-half (48 percent) of adult drug courts served felony-level cases in 2014, 9 percent served misdemeanors, and 43 percent served both felonies and misdemeanors.

• At least 25,049 participants graduated from U.S. drug courts in 2014. 

• The average graduation rate in drug courts increased to 59 percent in 2014. Graduation rates ranged from 50 percent to 75 percent and were, on average, two-thirds higher than completion rates for probation. Drug court graduation rates were more than twice those of comparable programs for probationers with severe substance use disorders.

• 74 percent of survey respondents reported recent increases in abuse of pharmaceutical medications by drug court and other treatment court participants. 

• The number of DWI courts is growing exponentially. The number of DWI courts in the U.S. increased by 52 percent in five years.

• Veterans treatment courts are dramatically expanding. Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) increased 14-fold from 2009 to 2014. A total of 350 problem-solving courts offered specialized services for military veterans or active duty personnel in 2014, including 266 state, territorial and federal VTCs, as well as specialized tracks for veterans in already existing traditional drug courts or mental health courts,.

• Representation of African-American and Hispanic participants in some drug courts was lower than for the arrestee, probation and incarcerated populations.

Furthermore, African-American and Hispanic participants are graduating from some drug courts at rates substantially below those of other drug court participants. NADCP’s Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards places an obligation on drug courts to monitor for racial and ethnic disparities. NADCP is actively working to ensure all drug courts use the best practice standards and receive the training needed to eliminate disparities.

• Thousands of communities could use drug courts, but don’t have one. In 2014, nearly half (44 percent) of U.S. counties did not have an adult drug court, and more than 80 percent did not have a DWI court, juvenile drug court, family drug court, or veterans treatment court. This suggests large numbers of justice-involved individuals with severe treatment needs do not have access to these life-saving programs.

The report offers data on drug court participants, types of offenses and growth within the drug court movement.

“This report demonstrates that drug courts and other treatment courts are expanding evidence-based criminal justice reform nationwide,” said Carson Fox, a co-author of the report and chief executive officer of NADCP. 

“There is still a tremendous need for resources to expand these life-saving programs to serve more individuals in crisis. We found that when we talk to drug courts they say the main challenges they face are insufficient funding and lack of resources for treatment or supervision, not an absence of community need or judicial interest,” said Fox.

The full report is available online at Allrise.org/pcp.