Predictors of graduation and criminal recidivism: Findings from a drug court that primarily serves African Americans

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work

Publication Date


Date Added



Drug courts are an alternative to incarceration for individuals who have substance use disorders. The drug court model is guided by key interventions (e.g., required treatment, frequent status hearings with a judge, continuous drug testing, prosecutors and defense attorneys collaborating in a non-adversarial manner) that are designed to promote recovery and wellbeing, as compared to traditional, punitive approaches to criminal justice. Evidence suggests that, in some drug courts, African Americans may graduate less, compared to their white counterparts. This is alarming because graduating drug court has consistently been a predictor of participants not being rearrested following participation in the program. This study predicted graduation and criminal recidivism outcomes for a drug court that primarily serves African Americans. The focus of the research is to inform drug courts about best practices in treating and retaining African American participants. Females, participants who were employed or were students, those whose drug of choice was marijuana, and participants with no criminal history were most likely to graduate. Participants with a criminal history and those who were terminated from drug court were most likely to recidivate. Implications for drug court practice are discussed, particularly in regards to enhancing resources for employment and the need to develop evidence-based treatments for African American drug court participants.




Social Work