I’m excited to announce the publication of the article Color in the Court: Using the Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) Program Assessment Tool to Promote Equitable and Inclusive Treatment Court Practice published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. This study was conducted by a team from American University (AU) and Morgan State University (MSU). This commentary will provide a concise summary of the article’s key findings and implications for treatment courts.
Instead of the typical punitive model in the criminal legal system, treatment courts address the root causes of substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health disorders that often lead to incarceration or other forms of involvement in crime. Treatment courts have gained traction for their restorative and rehabilitative approaches. These courts reduce criminal recidivism rates, assist people on a path of recovery, and save communities money.
Nonetheless, it’s vital to acknowledge and address the racial and ethnic disparities that exist within the criminal legal system, including treatment courts. This is where the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Program Assessment tool (RED Tool) plays a vital role in rectifying RED in treatment courts. The RED tool provides a comprehensive evaluation of RED in treatment courts to promote equity and inclusion within courts. The tool narrows in on distinct goals as part of its foundational design, which includes raising awareness about RED, highlighting existing inequities within courts, and offering recommendations on alleviating racial and ethnic inequities in programs. The tool sorts data into 8 different sections allowing for a thorough analysis of treatment court practices.
The sample for this study consisted of about 13% of treatment courts in a Midwestern state. Below are several key findings from the study.
- The completion rates reveal that minoritized participants, including African American, Biracial, and Hispanic participants had completion rates of less than 30%. In contrast to their White counterparts, who attained a completion rate of 64.9%.
- Data from the study suggests that only 37% of courts have reviewed their graduation rates to examine disparities among different racial and ethnic groups.
- On the topic of mandatory training, only 6% of courts required staff to complete cultural competency training.
- Further data reveals that merely 47% of courts agreed with the statement, “our team is racially and ethnically diverse.”
- Within this study, it’s important to note that none of the treatment courts mentioned racial equity within their mission statements.
For more findings, please read the full article here.
There is no doubt that treatment courts work, however, there is always room for growth. When treatment courts complete the RED tool and implement its recommendations, they should see improvements in access, retention, and overall program satisfaction for minoritized participants, which should lead to participants finding their path to recovery. According to SAMHSA, National Recovery Month is celebrated each September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices. We want to thank the treatment court professionals involved in providing prevention and treatment. Lastly, we celebrate those who are moving forward on their recovery journey.