UNDERSTANDING THE OPERATIONAL DYNAMICS OF DRUG COURTS
van Wormer, Jacqueline
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Drug courts seek to provide a coordinated and comprehensive approach to addressing the complex intersection of defendant addiction and crime that plagues the court system. Under the layers of activity and services that occurs in a drug court model exists a team that is charged with carrying out the goals and objectives of the designed program. This program should represent, in most courtrooms, a drastic departure from business as usual. History has shown, however, that proper implementation and maintenance of criminal justice reform and program efforts over time is difficult, and mission creep or program drift is not uncommon. This research analyzes the ability of drug court teams to follow recommended operational standards and explores whether drug courts are able to reach a strong state of collaboration. In addition, this research examines philosophical and ideological program change over time to assess if drug courts have drifted away from the balanced approach that should be applied within the model. This study found that survey respondents report strong adherence to the recommended drug court components and strategies, although juvenile drug court team members are embracing components built for adult drug courts. Training was significantly correlated across many scales and revealed that as training increases for team members, so to does perceptions of model adherence. As training increases, so to does perceptions of personal and system wide benefits associated with drug court operations. Findings also reveal that prosecutors and probation officers express less overall systems and personal benefit with participation on the team and within the drug court. In terms of assessing program drift, those team members that have received varied types of training perceive more drift and mission creep of the program over time. These findings offer important new insights into the inner working of the drug court model. Policy implications and recommendations for standardization are discussed.