Is There a Bias or Prejudice Among Referral Procedures for Specialty Courts?

Drug Court
Mental Health Court
Veterans’ Treatment Court

Is There a Bias or Prejudice Among Referral Procedures for Specialty Courts?

Race:

  • Morgan et al. (2016) investigated this question among 274 probationers who were involved in one of three specialty court programs (i.e., drug court, driving while intoxicated, or reentry courts) compared to a matched sample of probationers. The authors noted: “Results indicated that, in general and with few exceptions, specialty courts did not have differential referral rates based on offender demographics including race, ethnicity, SES, or attorney status (court appointed vs. privately retained).” However, it should be noted that all participants in the drug court and matched sample were white with the exception of two offenders who were black, and both in the matched sample. Thus, this particular study was based on a small sample in a limited geographic area.
  • To ensure equitable opportunities across all demographics, it is recommended that specialty courts employ standardized inclusion criteria and utilize data tracking procedures to ensure compliance with fair and best practices.
  • Findings from a nationwide survey of drug and other problem-solving courts (Marlowe et al., 2016) indicated that on average, Caucasians accounted for approximately two-thirds (67%) of participants in drug courts in 2014, with African-Americans accounting for 17% and Hispanics accounting for 10%. Furthermore, the representation of African-American and Hispanic individuals in drug courts was lower than for arrestee, probation and incarcerated populations. African-American and Hispanic participants also graduated from some drug courts at rates substantially below those of other drug court participants.

 

Gender:

  • Marlowe et al (2016) conducted a nationwide survey of drug and other specialty courts and found that women represented about one third (32%) of participants in drug courts, so appear to be receiving proportionate access to drug courts. However, they graduated from some drug courts at rates substantially below those of male participants. Thus, this discrepancy needs to be explored.
References: 

Marlowe D.B., Hardin, C.D, Fox, C.L.  (2016). Painting the current picture: A national report on drug courts and other problem-solving courts in the United States. Alexandria, VA: National Drug Court Institute. https://www.ndci.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Painting-the-Current-Picture-2016.pdf

Morgan, R.D., Mitchell, S.M., Thoen, M.A., Campion, K., Bolanos, A.D., Sustaita, M.A., and Henderson, S. (2016). Specialty Courts: Who’s in and are they working? Psychological Services, 13, 246-253. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ser0000085