Therapeutic Courts and Recidivism

Therapeutic Courts and Recidivism

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Fall 2007). "Therapeutic Courts and Recidivism." Alaska Justice Forum 24(3): 2. This article provides a brief description of results of an Alaska Judicial Council evaluation of the Alaska Court System's three felony-level therapeutic courts. TThe evaluation, which followed 117 offenders who participated in one of the three programs, revealed that graduates of the programs have been rearrested and re-convicted far less frequently than comparison offenders who did not participate in the programs. Moreover, the longer the participants remained in the programs, the less likely they were to recidivate, even if they did not graduate. A brief bibliography of resources on recidivism in Alaska is included.

An Alaska Judicial Council evaluation of the three felony-level therapeutic courts has revealed that graduates of the programs have been rearrested and re-convicted far less frequently than comparison offenders who did not participate in the programs. Moreover, the longer the participants remained in the programs, the less likely they were to recidivate, even if they did not graduate.

The evaluation followed 117 offenders who participated in one of the three programs—the felony alcohol problem courts in Anchorage and Bethel or the felony drug court in Anchorage—and compared results with those for 97 offenders who did not participate. The evaluation tracked offenders for one year after they completed or left their programs and followed offenders in the comparison group for one year after they had completed their sentences. Most of the offenders had originally been convicted of a Class C felony at the time of their admission to the therapeutic court programs; a few had been convicted of a Class B felony, and a few in the Bethel program had only a serious misdemeanor conviction. All program participants showed evidence of serious drug or alcohol problems.

The findings of the study included the following:

  • The longer the participants stayed in the program, the less likely they were to recidivate even if they did not graduate.
  • Fifty-four percent of the participants in these projects graduated.
  • Thirteen percent of graduates were re-arrested within one year after completing a therapeutic court program compared to a 32 percent re-arrest rate for matched comparison offenders.
  • Participants who were discharged from the programs or who left voluntarily had about the same rate of re-arrests as offenders charged with felonies in 1999.
  • Older participants were less likely to be re-arrested than younger participants.
  • Participants in the Anchorage Felony DUI Court were less likely to be re-arrested than those in the Anchorage Felony Drug Court and the Bethel Therapeutic Court.
  • No participants in the programs who were re-convicted within the first year were convicted of an offense at a more serious level than the one on which they entered the therapeutic courts. None were convicted of a drug or sexual offense. In contrast, 3 percent of the comparison offenders were convicted of offenses at a more serious level. In the Council’s companion report on recidivism among 1999 offenders, about 15 percent of most types of offenders were convicted of offenses at a more serious level.
  • Native participants responded as well to the therapeutic court programs as did Caucasian participants. Blacks and other ethnicities did not do as well as Caucasian participants.

The Council recommended that the state should develop further information about the costs and benefits of therapeutic court programs; should explore the reasons for the relative success of Native participants in the programs; and should determine why ethnic groups other than Natives and Caucasians did not do as well in the programs.

The information presented in the previous article is taken from Recidivism in Alaska’s Felony Therapeutic Courts, Alaska Judicial Council, February 2007, http://www.ajc.state.ak.us/.