A Cost Benefit Evaluation of California Drug Courts

Status: complete


Considering its large population and rapidly changing demographics, California is an ideal testing ground for collaborative justice models, such as drug courts. While outcome data existed for a limited number of drug courts in the state, there had not been any comprehensive studies conducted on an individual court or statewide basis to determine the cost effectiveness of drug court programs.1 NPC Research was funded to complete an initial, intensive evaluation phase in three adult drug courts, in Butte County, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Phase 2 extended the evaluation to six additional courts, leading to Phase 3, which included all adult drug courts in California.

The purposes of this evaluation was to:

1. Answer two critical drug court policy questions:

    • Are adult drug courts cost beneficial?
    • What adult drug court practices are most promising and cost beneficial? (for example, in lowering recidivism, improving public safety, and rehabilitating lives

2. Develop a methodology that can be used by drug courts statewide for ongoing cost-benefit evaluation beyond the conclusion of this project.

The study developed procedures for efficiently gathering relevant, reliable and consistent information both on an individual court and statewide basis. With nearly 25 percent of all U.S. Drug Courts located in California, the state offered the chance to gather key information and develop evaluation procedures applicable to drug courts nationally.

Project Team

Co-Principal Investigators

Michael Finigan, Ph.D.

Shannon Carey, Ph.D.

Research Coordinator

Mark Waller, B.A.