Intended and unintended benefits of specialty courts: results from a Texas DWI court

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Journal of Offender Rehabilitation


Specialty courts are a popular alternative to traditional solutions for addicted offenders and a large body of research exists regarding the effectiveness of these courts. Specialty court effectiveness is contentious, but methods used to investigate it commonly focus on recidivism while neglecting other aspects of court performance. The major purposes of this study are to determine the correlates to court clients’ drinking behavior and to explore how specialty court programing can be beneficial to clients beyond impacts on recidivism. We examined 154 clients from a South Texas DWI court. Participants were interviewed by trained researchers during intake, 6-month follow up, and the time of completion/discharge. Findings indicate that life circumstances such as employment, mental issues, and military experience influenced clients’ tendency to drink. Further, client drinking and drug use were substantially reduced by the end of the program and clients reported committing less crime. Finally, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety were alleviated by the time of the program’s conclusion. The findings contribute to the literature by complimenting previous findings on the correlates of problem drinking and substantiating benefits of specialty courts that go beyond recidivism.

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