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NSW Drug Court: A Re-Evaluation of Its Effectiveness.

Weatherburn, Don
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Sydney NSW: New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

This re-evaluation of the effectiveness of the New South Wales (NSW) Drug Court (Australia) compared reconviction rates among Drug Court participants with reconviction rates of a statistically matched comparison group deemed eligible for the Drug Court program (i.e., all pleaded guilty to a crime assessed by the Drug Court to be drug-related), but who were excluded because they lived out of the jurisdiction or had been previously convicted of a violent offense. The study confirmed earlier research in showing that, after controlling for other factors, those who completed the Drug Court program were less likely to be reconvicted than a matched comparison group of offenders who received traditional sanctions (mostly imprisonment). Drug Court “completers” were 17 percent less likely to be reconvicted for any offense, 30 percent less likely to be reconvicted for a violent offense, and 38 percent less likely to be reconvicted for a drug offense at any point during the follow-up period. This report notes changes to NSW Drug Court policy and procedure since the first evaluation. These changes included greater police input into eligibility screening, a more flexible sanctioning system, a lower legislative threshold for program termination, closer monitoring of Drug Court participants, and more intensive urine testing. The study sample consisted of all offenders who were included in the eligibility assessment phase of case processing between February 2003 and April 2007. Those who were deemed eligible and were subsequently accepted into the program were included in the Drug Court Group (645). Those deemed ineligible were included in the comparison group (329). For reconviction comparison purposes, only the Drug Court participants who completed the program were included in the analysis (241). (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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