Drug Court Participation and Time to Failure: an Examination of Recidivism Across Program Outcome

  • Benjamin R. GibbsEmail author
  • Robert Lytle


Drug courts were developed to offer substance abuse treatment along with intensive supervision in an effort to better attend to the needs of these offenders, lessen commitments to prison, and reduce costs to the criminal justice system. Despite the reported success of drug courts, reductions in recidivism appear to be reserved for those who complete the program. Those who fail the program are remanded back to the court for traditional sentencing that may negate any participation benefit. Scholars have long considered the role the criminal justice system has played in the desistance of criminal activity. Much of the research has focused on the outcomes of postconviction sanctioning, finding little support for incarceration has as a deterrent agent. Moreover, the stigma of a criminal conviction, alone, has been shown to exacerbate criminal offending. We used a sample of 733 drug court participants to compare reoffending patterns between sentencing outcomes (dismissal, failed-probation, failed incarcerated). We used survival analysis to compare criminal abstinence in drug court participants across three potential program outcomes – case dismissal, probation, and imprisonment. The current findings demonstrate differences in recidivism between convicted and non-convicted past participants, but see mostly null effects when isolating the analysis between custodial and non-custodial sentences.


Recidivism Drug court Incarceration Survival analysis Propensity score analysis Deterrence Labeling 


Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 21 kb)
12103_2019_9498_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (29 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 28 kb)
12103_2019_9498_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (212 kb)
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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle RockUSA

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