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Book Reviews   |    
Drug Courts in Operation: Current Research
Reviewed by Maurice H. Richardson, Judge (Ret.)
Psychiatric Services 2003; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.54.5.750
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edited by James J. Hennessy and Nathaniel J. Pallone; New York, Haworth Press, 2001, 127 pages, $24.95 softcover

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This volume provides a most interesting insight into the current world of forensic services research involving further refinement of the efficacy and impact of the modern-day drug court. Drug Courts in Operation: Current Research begins with a pithy introduction by editor James J. Hennessy, together with a preview of the five research venues involved. Professor Hennessy briefly outlines the discouraging 30-year history of America's "war against drugs," during which the national prisoner census has tripled without evidence of any progress in deterrence. He then describes the advent of the drug courts, which ultimately proliferated throughout the United States, and he hails this new judicial treatment-oriented model as the most effective tool yet discovered for fending off the spread of addictive contraband drugs.

Professor Hennessy points out that since the concept of the drug court was developed in the early 1990s, with its built-in requirement for data collection and objective evaluation, we can already see evidence of how effective the process has been. This theme of solid first-generation research is echoed throughout subsequent research papers in the book.

Three of the research papers very ably address areas in which the basic drug court treatment programs can be enhanced to meet the needs of persons enrolled in drug treatment programs. T. K. Logan and colleagues evaluate the Kentucky Drug Court Strengthening Families Pilot Program, which recognizes that children of persons in drug treatment are at a high risk of substance abuse as well as delinquency and early sexual activity. These authors conclude that, despite some limitations on the effectiveness of the evaluation, it is clearly evident that children of drug court clients should be targeted for substance abuse prevention.

In another article, Adela Beckerman and Leonard Fontana explore and evaluate enhanced drug court treatment programs focused on the offenders' cultural distinctions of race (African-American males) or gender (females). Offenders from each of these sociodemographic categories were offered small group treatment with greater case management participation and broad linkages to corollary services. The authors made a number of positive conclusions, such as the conclusion that culturally specific programs can nearly double the typical compliance retention span of the person enrolled.

A focus group approach was used by Michele Stanton and colleagues to examine employment issues faced by persons enrolled in drug court treatment programs. A particular common concern apparently arises when the employment commitment of such offenders begins to conflict with required court appearances. As a retired judge, I have little doubt as to which route should be followed.

In an article on treatment "dosage" effects in drug court programs, Roger H. Peters and colleagues present an important analysis from which they conclude that extended periods in treatment programs result in significantly lower recidivism rates among such participants, a long-standing anecdotal belief. They noted a striking linear relationship at both the 12- and the 30-month follow-up points.

Michael Rempel and Christine Depies Destefano, in the closing article, conclude that the combination of effective drug court coercion and early drug treatment participation were key factors in positive outcomes for drug offenders. Their extensive multivariate analysis was the first of three studies to be completed at the Brooklyn Treatment Court, and the authors point to a number of other important areas for further in-depth investigation.

Judge Richardson is assistant professor in the law and psychiatry program of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.




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