Drug Courts, a Bridge Between Criminal Justice and Health Services

Published in: Journal of Criminal Justice, v. 29, 2001, p. 241-253

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Douglas L Longshore, Susan Turner, M. Susan Ridgely

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There is striking overlap between the public health threats of drug abuse and crime. Crimes are often drug related, and drug abusers frequently encounter the criminal justice system. However, with few exceptions (e.g., Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime, TASC), the intersection of drug abusers with the courts has rarely addressed the defendants' drug problems. Drug courts represent an innovative approach to addressing both crime and drug abuse. Especially promising, and of great importance given that drug abuse is associated with a host of other health and social service needs, is the link that drug courts represent between the criminal justice and health services systems. Connections to health services are considered vital to drug courts but are poorly understood. The need for a bridge between criminal justice and health services is discussed, and a conceptual framework for its investigation is presented. Using data collected from site visits of 14 drug courts across the United States and Puerto Rico, the services available to drug court clients are described and linkages between drug courts and health services (including drug treatment providers) are explained.

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