Drug Treatment Courts

"Drug courts" or "drug treatment courts" (DTC) aim to tackle the problem of offenders who commit crime due to their dependence on drugs, by providing court-supervised treatment programmes aimed at reducing drug misuse and, by extension, offending behaviour.

Drug treatment courts were first established in the United States in the late 1980’s and have now been established either permanently or on a trial basis in Canada, Australia, Jamaica, Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Chile, Brazil, Belgium, Norway, New Zealand, Mauritius, Mexico and Surinam.

Treatment alternatives to incarceration can help break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and drug use, and imprisonment. The value of drug treatment courts is that they address in a coordinated way, supervised by the court, not only the drugdependent individual’s criminality, but also the drug-dependent individual’s underlying substance addiction that may be contributing to his/her criminal behavior.

The details of drug courts vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but most involve suspension of the sentence provided the offender agrees voluntarily to participate in a drug treatment program. For juvenils partiipation is mandatory in most countries.

The effectiveness of drug treatment courts has been widely documented in a number of countries, most extensively throughout the United States of America.

"Evaluations consistently show that Drug Treatment Courts effectively reduce recidivism and underlying addiction problems of drug abusing offenders. They provide closer, more comprehensive supervision and more frequent drug testing and monitoring during the programme than other forms of community supervision" (UNODC)

The UNODC has established its Expert Working Group on drug treatment courts that in 1999 reviewed experience and impact of drug courts, identified core factors underlying effectiveness and success, described what needed to change to achieve success and developed practical guidelines on how best to establish and implement these courts.

The UNODC Expert Working Group states in its 1999 report that "Experience also suggests that there is significant untapped potential for justice systems to better help reduce this ongoing criminality through greater involvement in the treatment and rehabilitation process, which for justice systems and other stakeholders is both a problem-solving and a preventive process."

The expert group issued 12 recommendations and success factors.


Download a fileUNODC Expert Working Group(1 7 1kb) UNODC Expert Working Group on Drug Treatment Courts 1999 report
Download a fileDrug Treatment Courts(6 7 5kb)

"Establishing Drug Treatment Courts: Strategies, Experiences and Preliminary Outcomes, overview and survey results".

Survey by the School of Public Affairs, American University, the Justice Programs Office; Commissioned and published by Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), of the Organization of American States (OAS), April 2010.  
Download a fileDrug Treatment Courts appendix(5 6 9 0kb) Appendix of Additional Supporting Materials to above mentioned CICAD report.
Download a fileGLASGOW DRUG COURT(4 5 0kb) , REFERENCE MANUAL, Glasgow Sheriff Court 2003

Web based resources:

UNODC and Drug Treatment Courts ("Drug Courts")



International Association of Drug Treatment Courts (IADTC)



National Association of Drug Court Professionals (USA)




New South Wales