May is National Drug Court Month, and throughout the United States, events, public service campaigns, and other activities are under way, focusing on what drug courts are and what they do. This year’s theme is “Drug Courts: A Proven Budget Solution.”
If you’re looking for general resources about drug courts, the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently revised their fact sheet.
Since beginning in Miami more than 20 years ago, drug courts have grown in number, with nearly 2,600 courts in operation today in the United States and its territories. Cost-benefit studies, including the Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation featured on our blog earlier this month, tell us that, on average, the benefits of drug courts outweigh the costs, but some participants generate far greater benefits than others.
John Roman, PhD, is a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where his research focuses on evaluations of innovative crime control policies and justice programs. Roman is a co-author of the Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE), a study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to examine the impact of adult drug courts and whether there are cost savings attributable to drug court programs.
Cost-benefit literature cites two ways of calculating program costs: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down approaches take the total cost of a program and divide by the number of program participants resulting in an average cost per participant. Bottom-up approaches take the price of each resource and multiply by the quantity of resources used, giving you an individual cost per participant.
These selected resources point you to research on drug courts, and tell you what to consider when conducting a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of a drug court program. They provide a helpful introduction whether you’re reading or planning a drug court CBA.
1. Collecting information
With the release of the Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) in June, we know more than ever about the costs and benefits of the more than 2,500 drug courts in operation in the United States today. Cost-benefit studies tell us that drug courts yield net benefits, but there are concerns about whether drug courts are an appropriate response to substance abuse.