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Meta-Analysis of Research on the Effectiveness of Juvenile Drug Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2016
73 pages
This meta-analysis synthesizes findings from the most current research on the effectiveness of juvenile drug courts, with attention to their impact on general recidivism, drug-related recidivism, drug-use outcomes, and the variability in these effects across participant characteristics and drug-court features.
The meta-analysis was limited to evaluation research that used a randomized and controlled quasi-experimental design applied to juvenile drug courts located in the United States. Using these criteria, an extensive literature search produced 46 evaluations of juvenile drug courts. Overall, these evaluations provided no evidence that juvenile drug courts were more or less effective than traditional court processing in their impact on general recidivism, drug-related recidivism, and drug-use outcomes. This was the case for findings for the period during the drug court program and the post-program period. Few of the studies used random assignment, and substantial baseline differences were found between drug-court and comparison groups on baseline risk and demographics. In addition, the meta-analysis did not find evidence that any of the measured participant characteristics or drug-court features had any distinctive effect on outcomes for participants. The authors caution, however, that the quality of the body of evidence produced by the 46 evaluations is very low, so they have "little confidence in these null findings." They recommend that future evaluations of juvenile drug courts use random assignment or rigorous matching procedures to ensure the equivalence of groups involved in juvenile drug court and comparison conditions. 12 exhibits, 28 references, and appended references to studies included in the meta-analysis, forest plots of effect sizes by follow-up period, contour-enhanced funnel plots, and box plots of effect size distributions by outcome type and explicit adherence to strategies

Date Published: April 1, 2016