Setting the Record Straight
April 11, 2011 (submitted)

Regarding "Drug courts are not the answer" (op-ed, April 7), the authors seem to not understand criminal justice research and I wanted to set the record straight. The authors claim that a Washington State Institute of Public Policy report showed that “drug courts do not reduce recidivism by even a half a percentage point more than treatment in the community without a judge's oversight.” This statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how drug court research is conducted. The studies that the Washington study used to determine the effectiveness of drug courts compared the effectiveness of drug courts to “business as usual”. The Washington study, after reviewing 57 studies with over 19,000 participants, actually showed that drug courts were 8% more effective than the treatment people usually receive.

Our own recent study of Oregon drug courts, one of the largest single studies ever conducted, including over 4,500 participants, showed that 20% fewer participants were arrested 3 years after participating compared to regular probationers. Drug courts have, in fact, repeatedly been shown to reduce crime, help people overcome powerful addictions, and reunite families.

The authors falsely present drug courts as an alternative to community based treatment, which they clearly aren’t. We strongly believe in the need for treatment resources to be available to people before they get in trouble with the law. If they do, however, drug courts present a powerful tool for the criminal justice system to help both the offender and society.

Devarshi Bajpai
Oregon Criminal Justice Commission