Juvenile Drug Court – Its Success Measures Up

Juvenile Drug Court (JDC) is a program that attempts to change the behavior of juveniles who regularly use drugs and alcohol. It uses intense judicial and probation supervision; individual, group and family counseling; drug abuse treatment and educational opportunities, and the use of sanctions and incentives.

As of 2011, two hundred participants have successfully completed the North Dakota JDC program. Of the 200, four have received the North Dakota Association of Court Professionals Scholarship. The award is given to a North Dakota JDC graduate who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the program. The most recent is Tate Rivera of Fargo. He plans to use the scholarship to attend Minnesota State Community & Technical College in Moorhead.

A measure of the program’s success is evident in the many ways it changes the lives of its participants. Here are some recent endorsements:

  • “JDC raised my confidence, self-esteem and my motivation to hear that others were proud of me.” (participant)
  • “It helped me gain a closer relationship with my friends and family and they now trust me.”(participant)
  • “I do not believe that he would be alive today if it were not for the drug court program.” (parent)

A review of five independent meta‐analyses concluded that drug courts significantly reduce crime by an average of 8 to 26 percentage points; well‐administered drug courts were found to reduce crime rates as much as 35 percent, compared to traditional case dispositions.1

Another study concluded:

  • Nationwide, 75 percent of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years after leaving the program.2
  • Compare this figure to the typical re-arrest rates on standard probation (46 percent of those on probation commit a new offense, and over 60 percent violate their probation), and to the high re-arrest rates ensuing after release from prison (this generally exceeds 60-80 percent).3

Drug court is not for everyone. It is not the silver bullet in reducing substance abuse and the associated criminal activity, but it is another tool for law enforcement and the courts to reduce the number of repeat offenders.

(Mike Austin is the School Resource Officer at Davies High School. Reach him at 446-5624, or at Michael.Austin@fargo.k12.nd.us. This article is the second of two parts on juvenile drug court. Read Part I here.)


1 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004. U.S. Department of Justice. [revised 2007]. Available: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/dudsfp04.pdf

2 Roman, et al. 2003. Recidivism rates for drug court graduates: Nationally based estimate – Final report. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute and Caliber.

3 Langan & Cunniff. 1992. Recidivism of felons on probation. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.