Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


In response to the drug abuse and addiction epidemic in the United States, innovative ways of dealing with non-violent drug offenders within the criminal justice system began to emerge in the late 1980s. Special court dockets – commonly referred to as drug courts – were developed featuring an interdisciplinary team of criminal justice and mental health professionals, led by a presiding judge. Drug courts and other problem-solving courts have proliferated within the state court system, numbering 3,057 by the end of 2014. The use of such courts is expanding among the states, but the federal courts have been slow to adopt the approach, and some official federal studies and reports have voiced skepticism about their effectiveness when measured by their impact on recidivism and cost-effectiveness. This paper looks at whether federal reentry drug courts work through a different lens – the perceptions and beliefs of participants and court program staff members. To get at these perceptions and beliefs, surveys were sent to past federal reentry court participants, and past and present court staff members, in five participating federal judicial districts. The results from each surveyed group are a strong endorsement of federal reentry drug courts, and reflect their perceived worth by those on the front lines of the federal criminal justice system.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Drug courts, Therapeutic jurisprudence, Recidivism--Prevention, Prisoners--Deinstitutionalization