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Evaluation of New Hanover County's Drug Treatment Court Shows Signs of Success

New Hanover County's Community Justice Services Department / Penny Craver
Ten Key Components of Drug Treatment Court. The 8th component involves "monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness."

When the state stopped funding Drug Treatment Courts in 2011, New Hanover County stepped up to support the program.  To measure effectiveness since that switch, the drug court commissioned an evaluation, which was completed last week.  UNCW sociology researchers found marked success, though recidivism rates for drug court clients are widely considered to be hard to gauge.  

Drug Treatment Court is an intensive substance abuse program.  For those who’ve been convicted of crimes connected with drugs—such as possession or stealing—it can serve as an alternative to prison time.

And it seems to be working. 82% of Drug Treatment Court clients have not reoffended after graduating one year ago.  

But Drug Court Coordinator Penny Craver notes that there is no universal definition of how or when to measure recidivism:

"Do you consider recidivism a return to the criminal justice system, any type of return?  In other words, would a traffic ticket be considered someone who’s reoffended?  Or would you consider, would it have to be an actual crime—shoplifting or another drug crime?  Also, is a person successful if they haven’t reoffended within 12 months, 24 months?"

For this study, small sample size and time period were additional limitations.  But overall, even after two years out of the program, about 80% of clients remain crime-free.