Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Executive Summary

The substantial growth in Kentucky’s prison population since the 1980s has resulted in increased spending on corrections, both the total amount and as a percentage of total general fund spending. The sustained growth in corrections spending combined with shrinking budgetary realities has created an incentive to explore ways to reduce costs without compromising public safety. Community supervision programs are one alternative to addressing this problem. They are an attractive approach to dealing with certain types of criminals because the cost is significantly lower than incarceration. Drug courts are an example of community supervision that allows drug offenders to avoid imprisonment and receive treatment for their drug abuse while still being supervised by the courts. An assessment of whether drug court participants successfully complete or are prematurely terminated from the program can help policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of drug courts and make improvements. In this study, I sought to measure the impact specific drug or drug types had on completion and termination outcomes for individual participants. In addition, I examined the same explanatory variables’ effects on these outcomes based on the percentage of participants at the county-level. The findings for the individual participants suggest opiate and schedule II users are more likely to successfully complete the program, whereas oxycodone users are less likely. The county-level analysis does not generate any significant findings other than a slightly higher probability of completion in counties with a higher poverty rate. Termination among individuals appears to be less likely for methamphetamine and white participants. However, drug schedule I users seem to have a higher likelihood of being terminated. The greater the percentage of methamphetamine users within a county also decreases termination. Conversely, the higher the percentage of white participants results in a higher tendency for termination. The findings of this study are limited due to the relatively low number of participants who have completed the program and a lack of data regarding the individuals’ education level, employment status, and marital status. These factors have been found in other studies to impact drug court outcomes. The lack of information about how each jurisdiction operates and differences in judicial discretion are also limitations. I believe further study with attention to these limitations is warranted to better assess drug court outcomes in Kentucky. Continued study of drug courts should also be expanded to examine how these variables and outcomes of interest relate to recidivism.



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