Based on a literature review, this paper identifies the distinctive features of juvenile drug courts (JDCs) and reports outcome evidence regarding their effectiveness.
JDCs are intensive treatment programs established within and supervised by juvenile courts to provide specialized services for eligible drug-involved youths and their families. They have five primary goals. First, provide immediate intervention treatment. Second, improve juveniles' level of functioning in their environments. Third, provide juveniles with skills that will assist them in living productive substance-free and crime-free lives. Fourth, strengthen families of drug-involved youths. Fifth, promote accountability of both juvenile offenders and those who provide services to them. A review of evaluations of JDCs indicates that they have reduced drug use and criminal activity while youth are participating in the program. Findings are less clear, however, regarding the long-term impacts of drug courts on recidivism and other outcomes. Only four of the six evaluations that examined 1-year post-program recidivism found a reduction, and the size of the reduction varied across courts. This suggests that positive results of JDCs wane when the requirements and structure provided by the drug court are no longer constraining youth at risk for drug use and related problem behaviors. 20 references