National Anti-Drug Strategy Evaluation

Appendix D: Recidivism Study for Drug Treatment Courts

Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) provide an alternative to incarceration by offering the offender an opportunity to participate in a court-monitored, community-based drug treatment process. One of the expected outcomes of the DTC Funding Program is the reduction in criminal recidivism by the individuals who participate in a DTC program. Recidivism is defined, for the purpose of this study, as a new criminal conviction during and after completion or participation in the DTC Program.

An analysis was conducted to compare the rates of re-offending of individuals who participated in a DTC program (2004-2009) with two separate comparison groups: a) individuals who met the DTC eligibility criteria but who were arrested in a jurisdiction that does not have a DTC; and b) individuals who were eligible and referred to a DTC but who refused to participate in the Program. The DTC participants group was comprised of graduates of the Program, those who were terminated from the Program and those who were still in treatment.

The four recently established DTC sites (Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton) provided information on the adult offenders referred to the DTC Program. The comparison group of the adult offenders (Halifax and Moncton) was comprised of offenders who have committed a non-violent crime and where it can be reasonably understood from the court/prosecution files that their crime was linked to their addiction.

A Cox-regression analysis was performed to analyze the data. The analysis controlled for gender, age at arrest, number and types of prior convictions and whether or not individuals participated in a DTC program. Pooling both comparisons groups, the analysis concluded that there are significant effects related to age, gender and number of prior violent convictions for the two groups. More specifically, the analysis demonstrated that the participants of the comparison groups have a 1.49 greater chance of re-offending compared with DTC Program participants (p=0.023). For every one-year increase in an individual’s age, the risk/hazard of re-offending decreases by 2%; older offenders are significantly less likely to re-offend than the younger ones (p=.016). Male offenders have a 1.55 greater chance of re-offending than female offenders (p=.016). Each prior violent conviction increases the risk/hazard of re-offending by 4% (p=.012). Rates Footnote 116 of re-offending were found to be lower among DTC Program participants at every point in time:

  • At one year, 34.5% of comparison group members had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 24.62% of DTC program participants.
  • At two years, 52.77% of comparison group members had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 39.38% of DTC program participants.
  • At three years, 60.63% of comparison group members had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 46.31% of DTC program participants.

An analysis of DTC participants that was conducted separately against each type of comparison group yielded similar results, but the level of statistical significance became marginal, largely due to the small sample size of the comparison groups. The participants who refused to participate in the DTC Program have a 1.65 greater chance of re-offending compared with the DTC Program participants (p=.048).

Graduates of the DTC Program were significantly (p=.001) less likely to re-offend than those who were terminated from the Program, the participants of the comparison groups and those who refused to participate in the Program. The risk of re-offending among those who were terminated from the Program was 9.2 times greater than the DTC graduates. For the participants who refused to participate in the Program, the risk/hazard of-re-offending was 11.5 greater than the DTC graduates, and the risk/hazard of re-offending of the comparison group participants was 9.2 greater than the DTC graduates. In this model, there were also significant effects of age and prior violent convictions. Younger offenders (.012) and those with more prior violent convictions were significantly more likely to re-offend (p=.000).

Rates of re-offending were found to be significantly lower among DTC graduates at every point in time:

  • At one year, 4.1% of DTC graduates had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 31.65% of the participants of the comparison groups, 31.64% of those who refused to participate in the DTC Program, and 37.7% of those who were terminated from the DTC Program.
  • At two years, 6.99% of the DTC graduates had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 49.03% of the participants of the comparison groups, 49.01% of those who refused to participate in the DTC Program, and 56.79% of those who were terminated from the Program.
  • At three years, 8.6% of the DTC graduates had been convicted of at least one crime compared with 56.66% of the participants of the comparison groups, 56.64% of those who refused to participate, and 64.7% of those who were terminated from the Program.

Study limitations include the small sample size of the comparison groups, the short period of follow-up for Program participants, and the likely existence of some immeasurable differences in the underlying characteristics of the treatment and comparison group members (e.g. motivation, employment and housing). However, the results of the study provide an indication that participation in a DTC program is statistically linked to a lower level of recidivism. These results support one of the expected outcomes of the DTC Funding Program, which is the reduction in criminal recidivism by the individuals who participate in a DTC program.

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