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The Queensland Drug Court: a recidivism study of the first 100 graduates

Research and public policy series no. 83

Jason Payne
ISBN 978 1 921185 63 2 ISSN 1326-6004
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, January 2008

Abstract

This report is the third in a series of research papers by the Australian Institute of Criminology examining the processes, procedures and outcomes of the Queensland drug court program. Commencing in 2000, the Queensland drug court program now operates from five locations, and offers eligible offenders an opportunity to participate in an Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Order (IDRO). An IDRO is a post-sentence court order that requires compulsory drug treatment (either residential or non-residential), regular attendance at court, participation in cognitive and behavioural programs, and compliance monitoring through urinalysis testing. The program is designed as a minimum nine-month intervention delivered over three phases. It targets drug-dependent criminal offenders at the 'hard end' of the Criminal justice continuum; those with a long history of criminal offending and heavy drug use. In terms of drug court outcomes, this evaluation examined the recidivism of the first 100 graduates of the program. A minimum of two years of post-graduation criminal justice data were available for each graduate, making this evaluation the longest follow-up of Australian drug court graduates to date. In the analysis, recidivism was defined as daily episodes of reconviction and was examined before, during and after drug court participation. Recidivism rates were compared to two other groups of offenders: a group of 100 terminates of the program and a sample of 107 prisoners. The report highlights aspects of the Queensland drug court's operation and describes the longitudinal recidivism outcomes of those who are successful and unsuccessful in their endeavours to become drug and crime free. The report emphasises the positive benefits experienced by drug court participants who embrace the opportunity for rehabilitation. Successful offenders consistently report a large decline in their criminal activity and lower rates of recidivism than those who were unsuccessful or those who were sent to prison.