Leading in Program Effectiveness

This year – 2013 – marks the 20th anniversary of the D.C. Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, better known as Drug Court, which is administered by PSA and was established in 1993. The Drug Court participated in an independent experimental evaluation  designed to compare the impact of sanction-based contingency contracts with an intensive drug treatment program. The sanction-based contingency contract program, which did not require mandatory treatment, and the intensive drug treatment program both were compared with traditional case processing. PSA used drug test results to identify defendants in need of drug treatment. Drug testing was found to be an effective and efficient way of identifying habitual drug users, and test results helped PSA focus its resources on known users. 

The evaluation established that defendants participating in the intensive drug treatment program had greater reductions in drug use and reported significantly fewer drug-related social problems in the year following sentencing than did those defendants whose cases traditionally were processed through the D.C. Superior Court. Defendants participating in the sanction-based contingency contract program received graduated sanctions for failing compulsory drug tests. Participants in this program were significantly less likely than traditionally processed defendants to be arrested in the year following sentencing. In response to the evaluation findings, PSA has combined intensive drug treatment with graduated sanctions for all defendants participating in the Drug Court. The synergistic impact of treatment and graduated sanctions is expected to produce better results than either approach individually.