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Delaware Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program

Ages 11-19

Rating: Level 3


The Delaware Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program helps first-time juvenile misdemeanor drug offenders develop the skills and maturity necessary to prevent further criminal behavior. All juveniles in the program receive case management services from a private agency that provides outpatient drug abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment services to teens. The services the program provides to juveniles include regular urine screenings, court reporting, and accompaniment for monthly court reporting. The program asks that juveniles maintain sobriety, attend all scheduled treatment sessions, and refrain from criminal activity. Owing to the treatment nature of the program, noncompliance does not result in termination. However, to graduate from the program, the juvenile must complete all of his or her treatment goals and be in compliance with the program for a significant period. Graduation results in the dismissal of charges.

Juveniles interact with the nonprofit agency Services to Overcome Drug Abuse Among Teenagers (SODAT) at one of three levels of intensity, but all participants receive SODAT case management services. One group receives case management from SODAT but receives treatment services elsewhere. Another group receives SODAT case management along with educational programs, family counseling, job training, and scholastic intervention. A third group receives SODAT case management with treatment groups, individual counseling, and family counseling.


The evaluation employed a quasi-experimental design with nonequivalent comparison groups. The treatment group included the 154 juveniles who were admitted into the program in two Delaware counties. A matched comparison group was constructed for all 154 juveniles who had equivalent criminal histories and were arrested for misdemeanor drug possession in the jurisdiction before the drug court was implemented. The treatment group was compared with the control group at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after program exit.

Criminal history information for each juvenile was collected and verified using the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System. Other methods of data collection included participation in drug court team meetings, court observation, a snapshot of court appearance activity, and discussions with various court and treatment personnel. Outcome measures used in the study included program completion and recidivism (any new arrests). Program completion was measured using case files from the juvenile drug diversion program. Recidivism was measured using official records from the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System.


The evaluation showed recidivism rates that were consistently lower for drug court youths than comparison group youths at each follow-up. While in the drug court program, recidivism rates for the drug court group were 25.9 percent, compared with 36.4 percent for the comparison group. Six months after program completion, recidivism rates for the drug court group and control group were 24.2 and 32.2 percent, respectively. The evaluation also showed differences in recidivism rates between those who successfully completed the program and those who did not. At 12 months postprogram, the recidivism rate for the group who had successfully completed the program was 35 percent, whereas the rate for the group that had not successfully completed the program was 60 percent and, for the comparison group, 50 percent.

As time passed, the differences were less sharp. At 18 months out of program the successful completers, unsuccessful completers, and control group had rates of 47.7 percent, 67.3 percent, 60.5 percent, respectively. Finally, the evaluation suggests a completion rate of 64.9 percent. Of the 401 youths admitted to the program by the start of the evaluation, 65 were still active, 218 had graduated, and 118 failed to complete the program.


O’Connell, J.P.; E. Nesterode; and M.L. Miller. 1999. Evaluation of the Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program. Dover, Del.: Statistical Analysis Center.

———. 2000. “Evaluation of the Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program.” National Drug Court Institute Review 3(1):125–27.

Shaw, M., and K. Robinson. 1998. “Summary and Analysis of the First Juvenile Drug Court Evaluations: The Santa Clara County Drug Treatment Court and the Delaware Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program.” National Drug Court Institute Review 1(1):88–100.


Christian Kervick, Juvenile Justice Specialist
State of Delaware
820 North French Street, 10th Floor
Wilmington, DE 19801
Phone: (302) 856-5310
Fax: (302) 854-6955