Crumpton, D., Carey, S., Mackin, J., Finigan, M., Pukstas, K., Weller, J., and Brekhus, J. (2006). Harford County juvenile drug court performance evaluation: Final report. Portland, Oregon. NPC Research, 1-104.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Harford County (Maryland) Juvenile Drug Court on recidivism.
- The authors used administrative records to estimate the impact of the drug court by comparing the outcomes of youth who participated in the drug court with those of similar youth who did not.
- The study found that drug court participants had significantly fewer rearrests (36 percent fewer) and fewer days (59 percent fewer) on probation than youth who were eligible for the program but did not participate. Participants spent fewer days in secure and community detention in the first year after program entry than youth in the comparison group. However, the study found no significant effects on the number of adjudication hearings, days in residential treatment, or days in a group home.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Harford County Juvenile Drug Court, but other factors might also have contributed.
Harford County Juvenile Drug Court
Features of the Intervention
The Harford County Juvenile Drug Court opened in 2000 as an unfunded pilot project to address a serious drug problem in Harford County. The drug court applied for and received a federal grant through the U. S. Department of Justice Drug Court Program in September 2001 and began operation in October 2001. In 2001, the researchers (NPC Research) contracted with the Administrative Office of the Courts of the State of Maryland to evaluate the Harford County Juvenile Drug Court. The drug court served juveniles “who were heavily involved with drugs and the juvenile justice system, had a significant prior treatment experience and were repeat offenders.”
The program aimed for its members to abstain from drugs and alcohol, have no further arrests, achieve in school, improve relationships with family, secure and maintain employment, understand addiction and its consequences, learn how to make healthy decisions, set goals related to drug court and seek and secure appropriate assistance to meet them, maintain self-discipline and responsible behavior, and develop and maintain an interest in a new support group.
The program had three 90-day phases, each of which had its own treatment and probation requirements. Parents and guardians attended the first session and gave consent for their children’s participation.
Features of the Study
The authors used administrative data to identify 96 drug court participants from 2001 to 2004. They matched those youth with a comparison group of 99 youth who had not participated in the drug court; were residents of Harford County; had a similar number of prior complaints; and, at the start date, were of similar age, race or ethnicity, and gender as drug court participants. The authors showed that the drug court participants and comparison group youth did not differ significantly on these characteristics. The authors estimated the impact of the drug court by comparing the recidivism outcomes of drug court participants with those of comparison group youth.
- The study found that drug court participants had significantly fewer rearrests (36 percent fewer) and fewer days (59 percent fewer) on probation than youth in the comparison group in the two years after program entry.
- Drug court participants spent fewer days in secure and community detention in the first year after program entry than youth in the comparison group.
- The study found no significant effect of drug court participation on the number of adjudication hearings, days in residential treatment, or days in a group home.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the study highlighted select findings that achieved statistical significance, of the five measures of new arrests examined, only one differed significantly between the drug court and comparison group. Specifically, the study reported significant effects on a combined measure of juvenile and adult rearrests two years after program entry, but found no significant effects one year following program entry, nor for measures that separated juvenile and adult rearrests. Of the 10 measures of new criminal or juvenile sentences, only 3 indicated statistically significant differences between the drug court and comparison group youth. Similarly, the estimated effects of the program on days in secure or community detention were statistically significant in the first year after program entry, but not at the two-year follow-up. The sensitivity of the findings to the measure construction and follow-up period suggests caution must be taken in interpreting the results.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Harford County Juvenile Drug Court, but other factors might also have contributed.