Drug Court through the Lenses of African American Women: Improving Graduation Rates with Gender-Responsive Interventions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Women & Criminal Justice

Publication Date


Date Added



Drug courts began in the United States in 1989, and nearly three decades of evidence has shown that drug courts are more effective than other criminal justice interventions at reducing criminal recidivism. There has, however, been a trend in some drug courts where African Americans are less likely to graduate than their White counterparts, which is concerning because evidence has also shown that graduating the program reduces the odds of recidivating. Little is known about African Americans’ experiences in drug court, and this is the first known qualitative study to ask African American women (N = 8) about the most helpful aspects of drug court that support them in graduating and how the drug court could be more helpful in supporting them to graduate. The women felt that the drug court judge was their advocate and understood the unique challenges they faced with balancing the demands of drug court with motherhood. Conversely, the women felt that they were not receiving effective, gender-responsive treatment for their substance use disorders, which was a barrier to them graduating drug court. The findings are discussed in reference to drug court practice and future research.




Social Work