Drug courts have been an important part of the criminal justice system since 1989. They continue to expand throughout the United States because nearly three decades of evidence has shown that they are more effective at reducing criminal recidivism than other interventions, such as traditional probation. However, little is known about how drug courts serve participants who have opioid use disorders and how those participants view the program. Furthermore, there are no known qualitative studies that have explored the use of medication-assisted treatments (MATs) in drug courts, and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) has suggested that some drug courts are unwilling to allow participants on MATs, despite evidence of their effectiveness at reducing or eliminating opioid use, decreasing or eliminating criminality, and improving functioning and overall quality of life. The St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court, for example, until recently, did not allow participants to use methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). Moreover, a 2016 program evaluation of the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court, led by Dr. John Gallagher, found that participants who had opioid use disorders were less likely to graduate than participants who had other substance use disorders. This qualitative study contributes to the existing knowledge base by facilitating individual interviews with participants, who have an opioid use disorder, and stakeholders of the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court. Stakeholders will include the drug court judge, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, social workers, treatment providers, and case managers, to name a few. The individual interviews will be guided by a phenomenological approach with the goal of developing an in-depth understanding of drug court from participants’ and stakeholders’ experiences in drug court, with a focus on the use of MATs in treating opioid use disorders. This study will explore what interventions are perceived as most helpful in treating opioid use disorders, identifying the barriers to treating opioid use disorders, and participants’ lived experiences with utilizing MATs to support their recovery. This study is timely, especially because our country is experiencing negative consequences related to opioids, such as increased rates of overdoses and deaths. Additionally, this will be the first known qualitative study to explore participants’, who have opioid use disorders, experiences in drug court and stakeholders’ views on the use of MATs in treating opioid use disorders. Last, the long-term objective of this study is to secure larger grants to complete a statewide evaluation of all Indiana drug courts.
Predictors of Graduation and Criminal Recidivism in an Indiana Drug Court: Promote Smart Decarceration
Building on a previous qualitative study this quantitative study is designed to predict drug court graduation and recidivism outcomes, and compares the effectiveness of drug court to a matched probation group at reducing criminal recidivism.
Drug courts have been a key part of the criminal justice system since 1989. Social workers can make significant contributions to drug courts, especially because they operate in a non-adversarial, strengths-based, and rehabilitative manner, all notable characteristics of social work practice. This research study is aligned with the Grand Challenges for Social Work, specifically the grand challenge focused on promoting smart decarceration. There is a plethora of research highlighting that drug courts are more effective than traditional criminal justice interventions, such as probation, at reducing criminal recidivism rates. The body of research is clear, drug courts work. The gap in research, however, is that less is known about who benefits most from drug court. As drug courts continue to expand throughout the United States of American (U.S.A.), as well as internationally, it is important to assess how an already effective program (when compared to traditional criminal justice interventions) can be enhanced for the women and men who participate in the program. Some studies, for instance, have suggested that African American participants were less likely to graduate and more likely to recidivate than their white counterparts. Furthermore, drug of choice seems to impact drug court outcomes. The U.S.A. is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic and drug courts can be a key intervention in minimizing and eventually eliminating the crisis. Previous research, however, has found that drug court participants who identify opioids as their drug of choice have poorer outcomes, when compared to participants who identify other drugs of choice. This research study will assess who benefits most from the St. Joseph County (Indiana) drug court and offer suggestions to improve drug court programming. The research study has three goals. First, to identify who is most likely to graduate drug court. Second, to identify who is most likely to recidivate during and after drug court. Third, to assess which program, drug court or probation, is most effective at reducing criminal recidivism rates.