Report Shows Juvenile Drug Courts to be Effective, Cost-Efficient
(Annapolis, MD — February 5, 2007) Juvenile defendants who took part in a Maryland drug court program were less likely to commit crimes afterwards, and the program saved money overall. These are the findings of an intensive study of the Harford County juvenile drug court, the final report of which was recently released by Portland, Ore.-based NPC Research.
“The two very important questions this study answers are, ’Do juvenile drug courts reduce recidivism?’ and ‘Do juvenile drug courts save taxpayers money?’ The answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes,’” said Gray Barton, executive director of the Drug Treatment Court Commission of Maryland.
Participants in the Harford County juvenile drug court had 36 percent fewer juvenile and adult arrests than non-participants, and 59 percent fewer days on probation or parole. The independent study also found that the average cost to the criminal justice system – measured by re-arrests, incarcerations, and probation – was 60 percent less for participants in the year following their involvement in drug court.
The study offers the first extensive cost analysis of a juvenile drug court on the East Coast. “The report confirms what we have seen in practice – drug courts produce better results than the traditional court approach to dealing with juveniles with substance abuse-based charges, and it’s also a cost-effective way to address the problem,” said David Mitchell, Harford County’s drug court coordinator.
“We get kids that you’d think won’t make it,” said Harford Circuit Judge William O. Carr. “But we have a consistent team and a strong tradition of interagency cooperation. I knew that if the program was run correctly, it would make a difference in the lives of these young people.”
The study compared a sample of Harford County juvenile drug court participants who entered the program from 2001-2004 to a sample group of individuals who were eligible for the program but did not participate. The two groups were matched on juvenile justice history, age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Both groups were examined through existing administrative databases for up to 24 months from the date of drug court entry.
Drug courts provide intensive treatment, supervision, and comprehensive judicial monitoring to habitual offenders whose crimes are addiction driven. Additionally, juvenile drug treatment courts take the added steps of ensuring that a participant’s family and area schools are involved extensively throughout the treatment process.
Juvenile drug treatment courts are a collaboration among the Maryland Judiciary, Department of Juvenile Services, State’s Attorney’s Offices, the Office of the Public Defender, area police departments, schools, and substance abuse providers. Drug courts incorporate varying levels of treatment as well as vocational, educational, and life skills training. They also offer other services to address issues that contribute to drug abuse and criminal behavior.
There are currently 33 drug courts in Maryland. In addition to Harford County, there are juvenile drug courts in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Dorchester, Prince George’s, Montgomery, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Somerset, Calvert, Charles, and Worcester counties.
A full copy of the Harford County juvenile drug court performance evaluation final report is available online at
For more information, please call the Court Information Office at (410) 260-1488.