Structural and process characteristics of drug courts may have a major influence on offender outcomes. However, despite the existence of dozens of outcome evaluations in the drug court literature, it is impossible to draw clear conclusions regarding variability in outcomes in relation to drug court characteristics. The authors describe existing approaches to the description of drug court structure and process and argue that a new approach is needed. To address that need, they propose a conceptual framework of five drug court dimensions: leverage, population severity, program intensity, predictability, and rehabilitation emphasis. These dimensions, each scorable on a range from low to high, lend themselves to a systematic set of hypotheses regarding the effects of structure and process on drug court outcomes. Finally, the authors propose quantitative and qualitative methods for identifying such effects.

Originally published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 31, no. 1, Winter 2001, pp. 7-26.

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