Classes conduct study for drug court
March 26, 2012

LaGrange College students and professors in the Political Science Department recently completed the first stage of an assessment of the Troup County D.U.I./Drug Court. The study was requested by State Court Judge Jeannette Little ’76, who created the program in 2004.

“She approached us in the summer of 2008 and asked us to conduct an evaluation of the court as part of the college’s ongoing community research activities,” said Dr. Tracy Lightcap, Professor of Political Science. Also taking part in the study was Dr. John Tures, Associate Professor of Political Science.

After three years of gathering and analyzing data, the group presented its first report to court officials. The initial stage dealt with the program’s effect on recidivism, or the tendency to relapse into criminal behavior, among defendants who were referred to it.

“We looked at defendants processed by the court from its founding in 2004 up until the end of 2008,” said Dr. Lightcap. “We then compared them to two matched control groups, one drawn from the study of the impact of Georgia DUI courts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and another from DUI defendants adjudicated by the State Court of Troup County from 1999 to 2004, before the court was fully established.”

The program started with 10 participants, but has since processed 318 defendants. Of that group, 147 are “graduates” who fulfilled all requirement of the court’s program.  Today, the court is helping 41 active participants, and has seen promising results.

According to Dr. Lightcap, the study “provides strong evidence that the D.U.I./Drug Court of Troup County has had a substantial effect on the recidivism rates of defendants referred to it.”

The next step will be to look at the survey defendants’ attitudes toward the court’s process.

“We’ll be comparing Troup’s (the court's) numbers to the NHTSA’s samples (from a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice),” Dr. Lightcap said. “And in phase three, we will be looking at the differences, if there are any.”

Dr. Tures said the cooperative effort was good for everyone involved.

“The best part of the whole project was getting political science and sociology students involved, applying what they learned in the Research Methods class to serve a community client,” he said. “Having the presentation in the courtroom, with students each taking a part in the question and answers on the findings added a very real element to what we were doing, analyzing and interpreting the statistical findings.”

Sheryl Hicks, Director of Court Services for Troup County, expressed her gratitude to the students and professors.

“I’ve personally witnessed the positive impact this court has had on participants with alcohol and substance abuse problems, and felt that the court has reduced recidivism rates,” she said, “but to have a tangible study conducted by the college confirm this belief is invaluable.  This evaluation will be used to further promote the mission of the DUI/Drug Court and will be extremely helpful as we apply for grants to help sustain and enhance the court’s operations for the future.”

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