Massachusetts Drug Court Participants: Dynamic Risk Factors for Recidivism

Drug Court

Massachusetts Drug Court Participants: Dynamic Risk Factors for Recidivism

October 25, 2019

Key Findings: In addition to significant substance use problems, Massachusetts Drug Court participants possess many other changeable risk factors for recidivism, which are associated with continued offending behavior and can mitigate risk, if addressed with programming. Among Massachusetts Drug Court participants administered a risk-needs assessment instrument at intake:

  • Almost all Drug Court participants lack education and employment, and experience financial instability. Programming that helps participants build their educational and employment skills and increase their ability to earn higher wages may reduce the likelihood of a continued criminal lifestyle.
  • Over half of Drug Court participants have family and social support systems that are supportive or tolerant of criminal behavior. Programming that strengthens relationships with pro-social family members and fosters positive social support networks are recommended.
  • The majority of Drug Court participants reside in a high crime area where drugs are readily available and there are ample opportunities for crime. Programming that provides participants with skills to avoid common situational opportunities for crime and identifies opportunities for pro-social activities are recommended.
  • Almost all Drug Court participants have strong associations with criminally-involved peers and weak ties to pro-social peers. Programming that teaches participants skills to establish and strengthen healthy relationships with pro-social peers and connects participants with pro-social peers are recommended.
  • The majority of Drug Court participants possess attitudinal and behavioral patterns that reinforce criminal behavior. Programming that helps individuals identify and correct antisocial beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are strongly recommended, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, anger management, and curricula that teaches self-regulation.

To ensure that risk-reduction practices are implemented with fidelity, Massachusetts Drug Court participants' criminogenic needs must be measured with a valid risk-needs assessment instrument. Massachusetts Drug Courts would benefit from continued efforts to increase the administration of risk-needs assessment instruments to participants when they begin Drug Court.