Tough Love: Nurturing and Coercing Responsibility and Recovery in California Drug Courts

Stacy Lee Burns, Mark Peyrot

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    68 Scopus citations


    This article considers the activities of the participants in California drug treatment courts and their differences from more traditional criminal courts. The article focuses on how drug court judges and defendants interact to construct the defendant as a personally responsible and rehabilitatively changed "recovering" person, or, alternatively, as an essentially "addicted" and deficient self. The research also explores broader links between the ways drug courts operate and the potential complications involved in mixing coerced treatment and "voluntary" participation. The study finds that certain kinds of defendants may be discovered to be unsuitable for participation in the program; that clients negotiate with the judge over the nature of their (numerous) infractions; and that clients proceeding through the program may be terminated, move backward in treatment stages, have their treatment extended, or be advanced forward and on to the next stage of treatment. The article argues that, while drug court provides offenders the chance to avoid imprisonment and permanent stigmatization by participating in the discourse of aid and treatment, "offenders" in drug court also submit to a combination of penal and therapeutic aims. In practice, this means that judges are likely to exercise enhanced supervision, monitoring, and control over their lives because they are being "rehabilitated".

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)416-438
    Number of pages23
    JournalSocial Problems
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 2003

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Tough Love: Nurturing and Coercing Responsibility and Recovery in California Drug Courts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this