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Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation agrees that there's a shortage of information about how many people go from drug court to jail, and for how long. "I do think that there is a need for more data on the number of times drug court participants are sent to jail or prison and the cumulative number of incarcerated days that result," Levin said.
"However," Levin added, "I think that data is only meaningful if one also looks at it alongside the data on the risk level and criminal backgrounds of those going into the drug court. If a drug court is using flash incarceration (weekend in jail) to deal with persistent non-compliance among participants who mostly would have otherwise been sent to prison initially had they not gone into the drug court, then that drug court is likely significantly reducing the total amount of incarceration and associated costs. Increasingly, research is showing it is the swiftness and sureness of the sanction, not the severity that is most impactful."
That claim is debatable. "Drug courts around the nation have been using [motivational jail] for over 15 years," says the California Society of Addiction Medicine, "yet not a single study isolates the impact of jail sanctions in generating improved treatment outcomes."
Tracy Velasquez put it more starkly: "Many offenders could get a lower sentence of they had just pled guilty in criminal court. They wouldn't have got treatment, but they would have spent less time in jail."