Racial Disparities in Treatment Courts



Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) in policing practices,

arrest and conviction rates, sentencing norms, and incarceration

trends have continuously had a negative impact on racial and

ethnic minorities.1 Treatment courts, unfortunately, have also

experienced RED in outcomes (e.g. minorities graduating

programs at a lesser rate than Caucasians). To their credit, treatment

courts have taken a proactive, advocacy approach in

researching and eliminating the problem to assure equal access

and effective treatments for all participants. The first treatment

court was a drug court that began in 1989 in Miami-Dade

County, Florida. Since then, drug courts have been rigorously

evaluated, and in the past 30 years research has demonstrated

that drug courts are more effective than traditional criminal

justice interventions (e.g. probation) at reducing criminal

recidivism rates for individuals who have substance use disorders.

2 As a result of the success of drug courts, other treatment

court models were developed, such as mental health courts,

family dependency treatment courts, veterans treatment courts,

and DWI (driving while intoxicated) courts, to name a few.

Although research has continuously shown that treatment

courts are effective, there is an unfortunate trend in some

treatment courts where RED exist. These disparities are primarily

present in participants who have access to the programs,

completion rates, and criminal recidivism outcomes. It is

important to mention, however, that the majority of research

on RED is focused on adult drug courts, which is not surprising,

considering they are the most common type of treatment

court. The findings, however, from previous research and

recommendations to eliminate RED in outcomes may be

applicable to all types of treatment courts, as they operate under

the same, or similar, key components (e.g. frequent status hearings

with a judge, random and frequent drug testing,

court-ordered counseling, offering sanctions and incentives).

The presence of RED in treatment court outcomes is not a new

phenomenon. For the full study:


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