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Adult Drug Court Process and Outcome Evaluation

The Cowlitz County Adult Drug Court, as part of their ongoing evolution, was evaluated by Nick McRee, Ph.D. to determine how well the program followed national best practices established by the Federal Government as well as the level of successful outcomes from the court. The following is the Executive Summary. The full report can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of the page.

September 2014

The American criminal justice system has seen an extraordinary increase in the number of problem-solving courts that employ a therapeutic model to address the problems of substance abuse and criminal behavior (Aos & Barnoski, 2003; Belenko, 2010; Burdon, Roll, Prendergast, & Rawson, 2001; Goldkamp, 2003). Drug courts provide judicially-supervised substance abuse treatment and social services to nonviolent offenders, often in lieu of prosecution or incarceration (Marlowe, Festinger, Foltz, Lee, & Patapis, 2005). Among several benefits, drug courts seek to promote public safety by reducing criminal recidivism, and to allow jurisdictions to more efficiently devote scarce resources to manage offenders.

The Cowlitz County Superior Court has operated an Adult Drug Treatment Court (CCADTC) since 1999, and was the subject of a previous evaluation (McRee, 2004). In September 2010 the CCADTC received program grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These grants included support for evaluation. Nick McRee, Ph.D. was contracted to perform a process and outcome evaluation of the CCADTC for the period covered by the BJA and SAMHSA grants (9/2010 – 9/2013). This document is the final report for a process and outcome evaluation of the Cowlitz County Adult Drug Treatment Court.

A process evaluation of the Cowlitz County Adult Treatment Drug Court concludes that the program is organized and functions in a manner consistent with the criteria found in the 10 Key Components of Drug Courts established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (2004), and its operations are largely consistent with best-practices research.

Recommendations are offered to assist the drug court team to consider additional program enhancements that are consistent with evidence-based, best practice research.

The outcome evaluation of the Cowlitz County Adult Drug Treatment Court computed graduation and recidivism statistics for a cohort of 150 drug court clients who exited the program between September 2010 and September 2013. The evaluation revealed a graduation rate of 56% during the study period. This compares favorably to an earlier study of adult drug treatment courts in Washington State observed graduation rates between 26%-58% (Aos & Barnowski, 2003). The graduation rate for the CCADTC today is almost 12% higher than what was reported for the program 10 years earlier (McRee, 2004).

The outcome evaluation study also examined recidivism rates (defined as new felony or new misdemeanor arrests within three years) for program graduates and drug court clients who failed to complete the program. The overall felony recidivism rate for all drug court participants was calculated at 24.7%. Results showed that graduates had a recidivism rate of just 13.9% over a three year period, compared to 33.6% for clients who did not graduate.

Nationwide, adult drug treatment courts tend to experience average felony recidivism rates between 8%-26% (Belenko, 2010). Few recidivism studies have considered misdemeanor recidivism; this study observed only 15.2% of drug court graduates to accrue a non-traffic misdemeanor arrest within a three-year follow up period.

The local community served by the CCADTC should take satisfaction in the findings of this report. The program is run and managed by dedicated professionals who care about the well-being of drug court participants and who are interested to do what is necessary to improve the program. It is recommended that members of the drug court team review the overall findings and recommendations contained herein, and then come together to collectively discuss current program operations and to consider possible program enhancements.

Nick McRee, Ph.D. - Department of Sociology and Social Work
The University of Portland
5000 N. Willamette Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97203
(P) 503-943-7258
(F) 503-943-7802



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