CACC – California Association of Collaborative Courts

Juvenile Drug Court Research

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What Works in Juvenile Drug Courts: Emerging Research


When Benjamin Chambers was at the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) in Washington D.C. in December, he caught up with John Roman, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute, just before he gave a fantastic presentation on emerging research on juvenile drug courts.  Click on the link below to hear what John has to say. Since the video sound is not ideal, Chambers also provided a transcript.

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Why does the juvenile justice system need a “new” court model to handle drug-involved youthful offenders? Perhaps because juvenile courts have strayed too far from their historic problem-solving mission to mimic the “just deserts” orientation of criminal courts. The drug court process may be an important change in style and procedure for today’s juvenile courts, albeit one that returns them to their traditional mission. Maybe the introduction of juvenile drug courts allows local juvenile justice systems to acquire treatment resources they otherwise would not be able to access. Juvenile drug courts may be valued not because they offer a new or innovative court process for juvenile offenders but because they enable local officials to leverage new resources for responding to teen drug use.

Most of the material presented in this book was produced for the National Evaluation of Juvenile Drug Courts (NEJDC) project at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice and conducted by researchers affiliated with the Urban Institute’s Program on Youth Justice. The NEJDC project was designed to facilitate future evaluation research on juvenile drug courts and to encourage policymakers and practitioners to examine the impact and effectiveness of the juvenile drug court process. Together, the chapters in the book highlight the most important factors in the effectiveness of drug courts for juveniles and encourage future evaluation researchers to formulate and test explicit hypotheses involving those factors. The contributing authors hope that their work will encourage policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to ask tough questions about juvenile drug courts and their effectiveness.

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Juvenile Drug Courts: emerging outcomes and key research issues.

Juvenile drug courts: emerging outcomes and key research issues. Henggeler SW. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA.



In consideration of the widespread adoption of juvenile drug court programs during the past decade, the purpose of this review is to examine the effectiveness of juvenile drug courts and suggest priorities for juvenile drug court research.


Consistent with the much more extensive adult drug court literature and the few uncontrolled evaluations of juvenile drug court, findings from a recent randomized clinical trial suggest that juvenile drug court is more effective than family court in decreasing participant criminal behavior and substance use. Perhaps due to the intensive surveillance that juvenile drug court participants receive, however, these favorable outcomes did not translate to reduced rates of rearrest or incarceration during the 12-month study period. In addition, the integration of evidence-based substance-abuse treatments into juvenile drug court enhanced participant substance-related outcomes and rates of juvenile drug court completion.


Although the widespread dissemination of juvenile drug courts has exceeded clear and unambiguous evidence of their effectiveness, few other criminal justice programs have shown such promise with drug-abusing offenders. Moreover, the integration of evidence-based treatments of adolescent substance abuse holds the potential to further enhance the effectiveness of juvenile drug courts.

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