Standardizing social problems solutions: The case of court-supervised drug treatment

Stacy Lee Burns, Mark Peyrot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Scopus citations


    Purpose - This study tracks the legal control of the problem of substance abuse.Methodology/Approach - The chapter explores the "natural history" of the evolution of the social construction of drug use and our collective response to it. Over the past 100 years, our understanding of drug use/abuse and the system for handling drug problems have gone through a series of changes. In the past 20 years or so, provision of treatment for drug offenders within the criminal justice system has rapidly expanded. California's recently enacted Proposition 36 (Prop 36) initiates for the first time on a mass basis the court-supervised drug treatment that began a decade earlier on a much smaller scale with the original drug courts. This chapter compares the Prop 36 program for diverting nonviolent drug offenders into court-supervised treatment with the original drug courts.Findings - The research shows how court-supervised drug treatment has evolved from a personalized care program in the original drug courts to a mass processing operation under Prop 36. The research finds that the social problem solution of offering treatment to more drug defendants created its own unanticipated consequences and problems, including significant standardization in the operations of the court and a dilution of many useful features that defined the early drug courts.Practical implications - "Farming out" drug defendants to probation and treatment makes case-processing and treatment potentially less effective therapeutically. The chapter raises questions about how social control can extend its domain without "breaking the bank" and what the consequences are for how social problems are handled.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)205-237
    Number of pages33
    JournalResearch in Social Problems and Public Policy
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Rehabilitation
    • Sociology and Political Science


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