Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: November 10, 2003

Seal of the Unified Court System
First Comprehensive Study on New York Drug Courts
Shows Significant Reductions in Recidivism:
Vast Implications on Drug Courts Nationwide

NEW YORK - The New York State court system today announced the release of the most comprehensive statewide analysis of drug treatment court efficacy ever published. The report, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and produced by the Center for Court Innovation—the research and development arm of the state court system—found that New York drug courts had reduced recidivism by an average of nearly 32 percent. Drug courts now operate in 49 states in this country, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.

This study is an in-depth, multi-site statistical analysis of drug court programs, which link non-violent, addicted offenders to judicially-monitored drug treatment instead of incarceration. The evaluation is the first in the nation to demonstrate a meaningful reduction in recidivism consistently across a large number of sites over a long-term tracking period. In addition to recidivism, the report also details the addiction history of drug court participants, treatment retention rates and predictors of successful treatment.

With over 18,000 individuals in New York having participated in drug court programs since its inception, the court system estimates that taxpayer savings have totaled an excess of $254 million. These projections are based on savings in incarceration costs alone, which amount to an average of $14,053 per drug court participant, not even including other cost-savings associated with an addict becoming sober, such as reductions from foster care, welfare and other social services.

Researchers from the Center for Court Innovation studied eleven courts from across the state, including courts from urban, suburban and rural counties. They discovered that participants in court-mandated treatment stay in treatment longer than those who seek treatment voluntarily: after one year, over 60 percent of the participants in the eleven drug courts studied were found to have either successfully completed their treatment programs or to be continuing in treatment, compared to a random sampling of in-patient treatment programs nationwide which showed only 10 to 30 percent who completed or were continuing in treatment.

More significantly, in comparing participants enrolled in six of the state’s oldest drug court programs to similar defendants from each jurisdiction that did not enter a drug court, the study found an average decline in recidivism of 31.7 percent for drug court participants (including both graduates and failures) in the year following program completion. Studies of drug courts in other states, including Maryland, Oregon, Florida and California, echo these findings.

“It is a startling fact,” said New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye, “that almost half of this state’s prison population are serving time for a drug offense. Undeniably, drugs exact a heavy toll on our criminal justice system and are a grim reality that the courts cannot ignore. For this reason, we began instituting drug courts in New York less than a decade ago, and their effectiveness in halting the destructive cycle of addiction and criminality is indisputable. This latest report from the Center for Court Innovation proves with hard, fast numbers what we have known all along—that drug courts work. The success of drug courts has positive implications for all of New York’s problem-solving courts, which handle cases as varied as domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and mental illness. The findings from this report reaffirm the effectiveness of problem-solving courts and provide even more impetus to further the expansion of these specialized, innovative courts.”

Deborah Daniels, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, stated, “This study, the most comprehensive of its kind to date, has tremendous implications not only for New York, but also for other parts of the country. While additional research is warranted, the report makes a significant contribution to the national knowledge base on the effectiveness of drug courts.”

The study showed a direct correlation between the seriousness of the charge and drug court retention, with those facing more serious charges (and, by extension, longer prison terms) being more likely to remain in the drug court program. This finding reiterates one of the main premises of drug treatment courts—namely, that legal coercion greatly increases the chances that an addict will remain in and successfully complete treatment—further supporting the effectiveness of drug courts in breaking the cycle of criminality and addiction.

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “This report is the most comprehensive statewide study of drug courts ever undertaken. It assesses the performance of eleven drug courts established in New York State, examining the progress of drug court participants years after their original involvement with the court. The extensive research laid out in this report can now quantify the extraordinary results of New York’s court-mandated treatment initiative, which have helped to increase public safety, save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, as well as get addicted individuals back on track as productive citizens of the community.”

Drug treatment courts have been operating in various New York locations since 1995, but began to be implemented on a wide-scale level with the start of Chief Judge Kaye’s drug screening and court-mandated substance abuse treatment initiative in 2000. The goal of creating drug courts in every metropolitan area and jurisdiction of the state is expected to be achieved by the end of this year.


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