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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 433
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    Document Title
    Program Evaluation of Virginia’s Drug Treatment Courts 2009 Report

    Supreme Court of Virginia

    Enabling Authority

    Executive Summary
    Legislative attention to the drug treatment courts culminated in the passage of the Virginia Drug Treatment Court Act in 2004, thereby directing the Supreme Court of Virginia to provide administrative oversight for the state’s drug treatment court programs. In this capacity, the Supreme Court of Virginia is mandated to oversee an evaluation of all drug treatment courts operated and implemented in Virginia. This report summarizes recent program evaluation findings, in fulfillment of this legislative mandate.

    Evaluation Activities

    Although the evaluation of Virginia’s drug treatment courts is an ongoing process, primary tasks completed during this evaluation cycle include:

    • Monitoring of data from the Supreme Court of Virginia’s web-based drug treatment court database; as well as supporting localities with data collection and data entry requirements;
    • Analysis of performance measures for drug treatment courts, utilizing data from this system;
    • Analysis of outcomes data from the drug treatment court database at SCV; and
    • Analysis of recidivism data for exiting drug treatment court participants, based upon supplementary data sources (e.g., Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice).

    Key Findings

    A total of 28 drug treatment courts currently operate in Virginia, implementing four different models (adult, juvenile, family, and DUI). Data from twenty-six drug treatment courts initiated prior to 2009 were included in this evaluation effort.

    This evaluation includes two specific samples: (1) adult, juvenile and family drug treatment court participants who were active on or since July 1, 2007 through September 30, 2009, as well as a sample of non-participants who were referred to the program, but not admitted, beginning July 1, 2007 through September 30, 2009 from the Supreme Court of Virginia Drug Court Database; and (2) DUI drug treatment court offenders who were active on or after July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009, unless otherwise noted from the Fredericksburg Regional DUI Drug Treatment Court. During the sample timeframe, a total of 3,411 individuals were referred to a Virginia drug treatment court program. Of these, 2,354 (69%) were admitted. Selected analyses within this study examine differences between those who complete drug court successfully or graduate (completers), those who participate in drug court but do not successfully complete the program (terminated or withdrew) (non-completers), and referred individuals who are ineligible to participate or refuse participation (non-participants) identified as referrals in the drug court database.

    This report summarizes evaluation findings with respect to several primary issues; such as post-program recidivism, within-program substance use, and drug treatment court performance measures. While it is important to note that the sample size and tracking periods may be enhanced in future research, and interpretations of findings will strengthen as more individuals complete program services, several interesting findings have emerged which are consistent with prevailing drug treatment court national studies. Specifically, the prevalence of rearrests is favorable for drug court graduates as compared to non-participants, retention in substance abuse treatment for successful and unsuccessful participants is high, and the per-participant cost for drug court participants is lower than alternative sanctions for like populations. More details on key findings are summarized below.

    Outcomes After Program Participation

    Recidivism analyses suggest better outcomes for adult and juvenile drug treatment court graduates, as compared to non-participants, on prevalence of arrest and time until first arrest. Positive results are also notable for DUI drug treatment court graduates.

    Individuals who complete adult and juvenile drug court programs consistently showed lower rearrest rates than non-participants. Recidivism data further revealed lower rearrest rates for adult and juvenile drug court program graduates, as compared to non-participants, at the 12-month follow-up point. Completers in the adult diversion model had a rearrest rate of 17% as compared to 32% for non-participants. Completers in the adult post-adjudication model had a rearrest rate of 15% versus 21% for non-participants. Further, completers in the juvenile model had a rearrest rate of 28% when compared to 61% for non-participants. The differences revealed for rearrests remain, but are somewhat less prevalent, upon reviewing conviction statistics for adult and juvenile programs. Overall, individuals who have participated in the drug court programs, across both adult and juvenile models, have demonstrated lower recidivism rates than those who do not participate. Furthermore, individuals who graduate from the DUI drug court program demonstrate considerably lower rearrest (10%) and conviction (4%) rates than those who participate but do not graduate (25% and 9%, respectively).

    Outcomes During Program Participation

    During program participation, evidence of substance use was considerably lower for participants who completed the program versus those who were terminated or withdrew (noncompleters).

    Evidence of substance use during program participation for drug courts is gathered via scheduled and random drug tests. About one-third of adult and one-quarter of juvenile program graduates demonstrated no substance use during participation. Overall, rates of substance use were almost doubled for unsuccessful participants when compared to program completers (graduates).

    Estimated Drug Court Costs

    Estimated costs for drug treatment courts are favorable when compared to alternative sanctions for adult and juvenile offenders, based upon available cost information.

    The annual cost of drug treatment court participation is estimated to range from slightly over $6,000 per participant for adult diversionary and to under $11,500 per participant for post-adjudication programs to over $24,000 per participant for juvenile programs. The DUI program, which operates based largely upon offender fees, has a minimal estimated cost-to-taxpayer of $48 annually per participant.

    When converted to a daily cost per participant, drug treatment court costs compare favorably to other sanctions, such as Department of Corrections (DOC) incarceration, community corrections, and commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). In all instances, when compared to alternative sanctions for the same population, estimated daily drug treatment court costs are lower.

    Compliance with Drug Treatment Court Standards

    Most Virginia Drug Treatment Court programs show 100% compliance with established standards established by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

    Based upon findings from standards compliance review visits, conducted by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia during 2009, all Virginia Drug Treatment Courts are wholly or largely compliant with the established Virginia Drug Treatment Court Standards. The visits included reviewing evidence to demonstrate compliance with each standard and practice, as well as attending the drug court staffing and status hearings with the drug court team. Any courts demonstrating compliance below 100% will be reviewed again in the upcoming year.

    Drug Treatment Court Case Volume

    The majority of individuals referred to drug court programs are admitted; however, many programs steadily operate under capacity.

    Over the course of the evaluation period, over 3,400 individuals were referred to drug court programs in Virginia. Of these, 69% (2,354) were admitted. However, a review of active enrollment compared to total program capacity at the end of FY2009 suggests that 16 of 28 operational programs are operating substantially under capacity.

    Retention in Treatment Services

    Drug court graduates (completers) spend substantial time in substance abuse treatment.

    Post-adjudication program graduates have an average length of nearly two years in the program, about four months longer than adult diversionary programs. Successful participants spend about 17 months in the DUI drug court program, 16 months in the family program, and 14 months in the juvenile programs. Retention in treatment is at least 5 months longer on average for participants who graduate (completers) versus those who unsuccessfully complete (noncompleters) the programs.

    Future Evaluation Efforts

    In 2010, the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia hopes to complete a cost-benefit analysis of appropriate programs from each drug court model. These efforts are contingent upon the availability of resources and data to support the study.