Seminar: An Unnatural Natural Experiment: Evaluating an American Drug Court

02 Oct 2007

SPEAKER: Professor Candace McCoy, City University of New York

ABSTRACT: When a law changed so as to permit people convicted of drug-related crimes to go to drug court treatment instead of prison, the researcher was presented with a natural experimental design: one control group who were imprisoned, and one experimental group who received intensive drug treatment and recovery support. But as the researcher explored what the statistics describing the progress of each group actually meant, she found that prosecutorial discretion is so powerful that meaningful study of drug-addicted offenders was very difficult. Furthermore, even within the treatment group, findings from traditional measures of client progress were suspicious because only short-term progress was measured. When interviewers found the drug court clients five years after they had graduated from the program, a much more nuanced picture emerged. Generally, drug court clients did better than the imprisoned for the period in which they participated in the drug court program, but not necessarily over time.

DATE: Tuesday, 9th October 2007

VENUE: DASS Common Room, 3S15, Colin Bell Building,University of Stirling

TIME: 4.00pm – 5.30pm