The need for criminal justice systems to be as capable of bringing about the required level of reforms on the part of the offenders is a justifiable one. However, it also ought to be made sustainable because it will be absolutely a waste of time and other resources for a lot to be invested in a system that is not capable of bringing about desired effects. It is on this basis that this research proposals aims to investigate the effectiveness of drug courts in bringing about the desired impacts on offender.
Given that drug use and abuse of a leading problem in this country, the approaches at resolving lit ought to be pragmatic but economically and socially sustainable. The proposal presents the secondary sources of data that will be used, and specifically outlines the research design and plan, including the research questions, hypotheses, sample sizes, methodology, and approach. How Effective are Drug Courts with Respect to the Impacts on the Offenders? Key words 1. Drug court 2. Offenders 3. Impacts 4. Effective Introduction
The need to ensure that justice is granted to the deserving is a principle and policy which the criminal justice system in this country has lived by. As such, there have been measures put in place to specifically ensure that the people who break the law are punished as the law provides but also given the chance to reform and lead normal lives. Law offences of all types are never really an offender’s deliberate will but rather something that comes about because of the influences from factors which are outside the individual’s control (Carey et al.
, 2006). Typical example are drug related criminal offences which are committed largely because the victims are under the influence of drugs and cannot really be in a position to make sound and wise decisions. They thus end up being punished for crimes and offences that they never really intended to commit. This has caused the problem of many pending cases in courts due to the increased number of law offender; and this has also caused overcrowding in prisons.
That aside, cases of recidivism have kept rising as some people still find themselves committing the same crimes or different ones after they have served out their prison terms or when they are put on special programs like parole (The National Association of Drug Court Professionals Drug Court Standards Committee, 1997). This has called for intervention to address the problems that are thought to be directly and indirectly responsible for causing this trend.
A long time back, as back the 1980s, one of the possible interventions was the need to have courts that would specifically deal with offenders who committed minor drug offenses so as not only to punish them but also help them recover and get reintegrated into the community (Carey et al. , 2006). This was because it was believed that mixing other offenders charged with graver offences with these minor offenders only made the latter’s problem worse.
Starting from Miami-Dade County (Florida) in 1989 where the first drug court was set up to deal with such issues, the system has spread very fast to reach about 2,140 drug courts spread across the country’s fifty states. That aside, the system is being introduced in many other countries around the world such as the United Kingdom and Australia. There has, however, emerged a debate as to the effectiveness of these drug courts in bringing about the desired level of change among the minor drug offender.
Concerns have been raised that although a lot of state and federal government funds are being injected into this approach to criminal justice, the courts are not really changing anything (Freiberg, 2000). This research proposal seeks to establish the effectiveness of the drug courts. Literature Review This research topic will be mainly based on findings in secondary sources of data. As such, it is appropriate that a thorough review of the literature be done so that there is a concise and succinct description of the research area.
This will in turn ensure that the findings of the research will be reliably authentic and that any conclusions drawn thereof can stand the test of time as they will have a sound and empirical basis. That aside, it is on the basis of this literature that the research will draw its research questions and formulate its hypotheses. The Need for Drug courts The US introduced drug courts in response to the rise in the number of offenders needing special attention.
According to Kratocoski (2004), there was a phenomenal growth in the numbers of people incarcerated for drug offences and for that reason, formation of special courts to take care of the cases was justified. The rise was specifically significant in the period between 1984 and 1990, whose rise was estimated to be 11854 to 29306. Florida was the first state to create a special court for drugs through the Dade County’s creation of a drug court, which was the first in the country. By the mid 1990s there were around 41 drug courts that were operational in the United States.
By December 1995, there were around 82 drug courts. According to Carey et al. (2006), a number of reasons are advanced as forming basis for expecting drug courts to be more effective. Previous research has found strong links (both direct and indirect) between drug use and rates of repeated offences. In reducing drug consumption and crime, treatment has been shown to be effective. Voluntary treatment programs showed lower rates of repeated offences compared to those in coerced treatment (Lessenger 2007). The Aims and Efficiency Levels of Drug Courts According to Huddleston, et al.
(2008), the clear-cut rules, intensive supervision and sanctions coupled with rewards that characterize drug courts appear to be the factors improving patient retention in the program. The overall objective of the treatment program is to reduce the incidences of drug abuse, thereby, lowering the incidences their chances of them sliding back to crime (Incidardi, 1996). The practice of subjecting drug offenders to court-supervised treatment leads to lowering of drug abuse, and for that reason, it is safe to assume that the treatment they are subjected to leads to lower incidences of drug abuse and hence lower criminal activity levels.
A number of reviews have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of drug court. One such review, and the most prominent of them, was conducted by Nolan (2002) and contained in Drug courts in theory and in practice. From the review, he concluded that as long the drug offenders remained in the program, the drug courts would be effective. For instance the study found the in Miami those who attended drug courts had lower levels of recidivism in comparison to those individuals who had not been handled by the drug courts.
However, the study did not take into account the differences that existed between the two groups of individuals because some of those handled outside the drug courts did not have any drug related case that warranted the attention of the drug courts. Lower rates of recidivism among the participants whose offences were related to alcohol or drug abuse have been reported in some studies (Kratocoski, 2004). But in these studies, there were considerations of the many and major differences of the participants for example the age, gender, number of offences. In addition to that it did have a follow up period.
Cost and Benefit Analysis – the Raging Debate The drugs courts have been lauded as being very instrumental in reducing not only drug related crimes but all other crimes as well. This has been attributed to the fact that many crimes are committed by people who are under the influence of drugs and so who are not able to make sound judgments. Dealing with such people in a criminal justice system that seeks to reform them and not just punish them is the best way to go (Granfield, 1998). As such, these courts have received a lot of support from many civil society groups who have described them as being revolutionary.
For their evidence they have cited the drastic decline in the cases of recidivism ever since it became the policy of both federal and state governments to ensure that minor drug offenders were taken and dealt with in these specialized courts. Another key benefit of these courts has been their ability to incorporate the young and the adults without any discrimination (Peters, 2000). Lately, cases of juvenile delinquency have been on the rise in the country and proponents of drug courts as well as child welfare advocacy groups have sought to have these courts increased so as to help manage the situation.
Juveniles tend to be easily affected by pressures from peers and one key area where they have tended to concentrate is drug use and abuse. Once they are under the influence of drugs, these juveniles quickly get addicted and progress equally fast to commit other crimes. Drug courts are the only viable legal institutions that can offer hope for turning around such young people (Cooper, 2001). Some adults are also desperately in need of help and although such help can also be found in health institutions like rehabilitation centers within the community, some never benefit because the criminal element in them makes them resist treatment.
However, in drug courts, such people are able to receive help because there is an aspect of force given that the program is usually conducted under high level of legal supervision (Aos, Miller & Drake, 2006). In addition, the courts are likely to produce better results because unlike in voluntary community rehabilitation centers, the offenders are keen to change their drug records so as to get the accompanying rewards like having their court sentences reduced or even getting acquitted of their crimes.
However, opponents like Bhati, Roman, & Chalfin (2008) have cited the huge government expenditure on the system as being unsustainable and an added burden to taxpayers who are forced to finance criminals and other law offenders. They insist that punishments ought to be severe enough to prompt offenders to seek to change their behavior. As such, they are of the view that prison terms are the best and only those people who have finished serving their terms can be put on drug management programs – and this based on their will and desire to change and be reintegrated into the community.
They claim that there is no way an offender who has failed to change while in prison can be forced to change by using an even softer approach (Roman, Townsend & Bhati, 2003). Although they agree that these courts enable the drug addicts to change their behavior because of being made to stay for long times without drugs and so conditioning their bodies to work without the drugs, they would rather this was done in ways that are less costly (Rhodes, Kling & Shively, 2006.
Finally, these courts lack the level of effectiveness that is required because there is often a lack of partnerships among public agencies, drug courts, and community-based organizations. Such cooperation is ideal and even indispensable if the courts were to succeed in attaining the level of efficiency required to change the lives of the addicts brought there (Hennessy, 2002). Research Questions Having this kind of knowledge about the research topic puts the research in a more informed position (Byrne, 2002).
This is because on the basis of the literature that has been reviewed, it is possible to establish a more specific area of the research topic so that the research can concentrate there. In order to do this, there have to be specific research questions and hypotheses to guide the research. Given that specificity is a very important aspect of any research, the following is an outline of the research questions that will be used to guide the research: 1. How effective are the drug courts with respect to the impact on the offenders? 2. Do the drug courts have a positive or negative impact on the offender?
3. Is the treatment plan effective? 4. What are the various stages of the treatment plan? 5. Other than their effective, what other aspects or factors ought to considered in the current efforts to reduce crime in the country and especially drug related crime? Hypotheses In a similar manner, the following hypotheses will be used to test the results obtained, having been used to guide the research process: 1. Drug courts are very effective in turning around the lives of drug related offenders, but this effectiveness can be enhanced by increasing the number of such courts. 2.
Although having mixed fortunes, the overall impacts of drug courts on the offenders have been positive. 3. The treatment plan used by drug courts is more effective than that used by other institutions or those applied to clients on a voluntary basis. 4. There are no specific stages followed as long as the drug offender is able to be helped. 5. Making the courts more sustainable, increasing their number, and enhancing the cooperation between the various officers involved in the system can go a long way in improving their effectiveness. The Evaluation Site and/or the Subjects of Study
The research will seek to find out how effective drug courts are in changing the lives of drug related offenders. To do this effectively, there will be an assessment of some of the possible indicators of the success or lack thereof of this system. Although there are many variables that can be measured, the research will mainly use secondary data collected from past accounts or records of the drug offenders (Melton et al. , 2007). There will, therefore, be a need to survey various police stations and gather information of drug offenders who have not managed to commit other crimes after they had been through a drug court.
In addition to this, there will be visits to various law courts whose judges have taken part in trying these drug related offenders. From these, there will be obtained information about the number of offenders who have been forced to go through the drug courts and the eventual performance of these offenders. The aim will be to ascertain if the offenders actually manage to change their drug behavior as indicated by their failure to recommit other offences. Another institution that will be covered will be the drug courts themselves where some of the offenders might still be undergoing treatment.
Therefore, the information that is required will be obtained from various criminal justice systems. That aside, community based rehabilitation centers will be studied to ascertain their level of efficiency in changing the lives of people who have drug problems. Hospitals, too, will be used to provide such records. The following five states will be covered: 1. California 2. Massachusetts 3. Colorado 4. New York 5. Florida For each state, randomly selected centers of drug addiction treatment, including drug courts, ordinary health care facilities like hospitals, and special drug rehabilitation centers will be used.
The criteria will be to pack those that have a record of dealing with patients who have committed some form of crime in the past. Research Design The actual approach will entail gathering information from the above institutions about the behavior of offenders who have gone through the drug courts and comparing it with those who have not gone through them (Marczyk, 2005). A total of 20,000 drug offenders from five states will be tracked to establish their records and behavior once they had been through the drug court.
These people will also include those who are still on a drug court program because there is a possibility that some will never get off the program. Another 20,000 offenders who never went through drug courts but are in or have been to a community based drug rehabilitation center will be tracked to assess their level of recovery and tendencies to commit crime once they have successfully recovered. Apart from analyzing the records, the officers in charge of the various facilities and institutions as well as some offenders under treatment will be interviewed to get their view.
The information will be compared to determine the number of these offenders who have successfully been healed of the drug problem as will be indicated by their successful reintegration into the community and the lack of no reported engagement in acts of law-breaking ever after. The offenders will be tracked for over 10 years after they were on treatment, both for those in the drug courts and those on the other civilian treatment facilities. Although it will be difficult to get access to all the records of the people, the research will strive to do it. Population and Sample
The research will cover both adults and juveniles of either gender. For each state, a total of 4,000 drug offenders will be studied, half of which will be children. Attempts will be made to include as many females as males although this will not be a priority factor. Data Analysis The main method to analyze the data will be comparison (Greasley, 2008). Data from drug courts will be compared with data from other drug treatment institutions to determine which of the two is more effective in its treatment. The main challenge will be finding the frequency at which recidivism is committed by those who have been through some form of treatment.
A percentage will be arrived at showing how the two sides compare. In addition to comparison, analytic induction will be applied. The data will be measured based on the five hypotheses, and in the event there is no agreement, a revision of the hypotheses will be done to make them more appropriate. Ethical Issues It will be difficult to be granted access to some of the records of such drug offenders, especially those who have reformed and have been reintegrated successfully into the community. It is also illegal in some jurisdictions to have access to some of these records.
Then interviewing people on treatment might not be that ethical. However, the research team will aspire to meet all the legal requirements and to get special permission from the participants in the interview before engaging in the process. In addition, they will seek to assure the participants that no information will be used for any other purposes but for that it was intended. Finally, participants’ identity will not be disclosed to anyone nor their information circulated. Project organisation, management, schedule and budget The research will need a lot of planning (Mason, 2002).
It is projected that the process will take five to seven months given that there will be tracking of each participant. It will be a state-by-state research, and considering the large size of the population sample, this will be a costly and time-consuming exercise. The actual research is scheduled to commence on the 2nd day of August 2010 after a one-month period of preparation and planning. It is expected that the main costs will cover issues like travel, legal documents acquisition, results analysis, accommodation, document access fees, among others.
Conclusion and Limitations The research will face limitations like denial of access to some legal documents, a factor that might delay the process. However, it will be overcome by starting early enough and planning ahead of time for the process. There is a need to have the participants informed in advance of the day and time when they will be required for interviews and for assisting the researcher with the records. Finally, there needs to be further research on the need for more or fewer drug courts. Word count: 3,114