A Meta-Analytic Examination of Drug Treatment Courts: Do They Reduce Recidivism?


The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Daniel Nassrallah who provided coding assistance during the initial stages of this project. In addition, the services provided by the Department of Justice Library, specifically by Heather Blake, Sylvie Nugent and Micheline Levesque, were instrumental in locating many of the documents used in this meta-analysis. We would also like to thank Kim Burnett for her assistance in identifying and locating documents and Margaret Trottier for her advice and expertise on drug treatment courts. Finally, constructive comments on an earlier draft were provided by Dr. Kwing Hung, Dr. Guy Bourgon, Austin Lawrence and Anna Paletta.


A meta-analysis was conducted to determine if drug treatment courts reduce recidivism compared to traditional justice system responses. After a comprehensive search of both the published and unpublished literature, 54 studies were located and deemed acceptable according to the study inclusion criteria. Since studies oftentimes contained information on more than one program, data from 66 individual drug treatment court programs were aggregated and analyzed. The results indicated that drug treatment courts significantly reduced the recidivism rates of participants by 14% compared to offenders within the control/comparison groups. Several variables identified in the analysis, however, had an impact on the results, including the age of the participants, the length of the program, the follow-up period used to measure recidivism, and other methodological variables (i.e., the use of random assignment and the choice of the comparison group). While there are other issues that were not the subject of this research, such as the cost-effectiveness of DTCs, the results of this meta-analysis provides clear support for the use of drug treatment courts as a method of reducing crime among offenders with substance abuse problems.