Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Tom Massey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Baldwin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roger Boothroyd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Scott Young, Ph.D.


Treatment Courts, Therapeutic Courts, Measurement Development, Pile Sort, Card Sort, Exploratory Factor Analysis, Cognitive Interviews


The high prevalence of substance use disorders is well-documented among criminal offenders. Drug courts are specialty judicial programs designed to: 1) improve public safety outcomes; 2) reduce criminal recidivism and substance abuse among offenders with substance use disorders; and 3) better utilize scarce criminal justice and treatment resources. Drug courts operate through partnerships between the criminal justice, behavioral health and public health systems. Offenders participate in an intensive regimen of substance abuse treatment and case management while under close judicial supervision. Drug courts' effectiveness in reducing criminal recidivism and drug use has been documented through numerous primary studies as well as meta-analytic reviews. The task remains now to determine the causal mechanisms of drug courts.

The current study conducted preliminary activities to develop a measure to assess drug court structures and practices based upon the Ten Key Components of drug courts (NADCP, 1997). The creation and use of such a measure is necessary to the understanding of how drug courts work, why and how best to invest scarce judicial and treatment resources to optimize drug court participant and program outcomes. An iterative process was conducted such that results from previous activities informed subsequent steps in the measurement development process. Participants consisted of a convenience sample of drug court personnel at three local drug courts as well as academic experts in drug courts and measurement.

Preliminary measurement development activities included: 1) a comprehensive review of the literature; 2) semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders to inform item development; 3) construction of a draft survey protocol; 4) expert reviews of the draft survey protocol and initial item pool to assess item construct and content validity, response format and clarity; 5) pile sort activity, wherein participants sorted items into piles, one for each measure sub-construct and one `other' pile; 6) exploratory factor analyses based on a joint-proportion matrix derived from pile sort activity data on which items best represent measure sub-constructs; 7) cognitive interviews completed by key stakeholders to review items retained from exploratory factor analyses; and 8) final revisions to the item pool based upon results from cognitive interviews.

The item pool developed through the current research will be used as the basis for a future large-scale pilot test to determine the true factor structure underlying the preliminary measure developed. Results of this future research are expected to identify similarities and differences in the underlying factor structure compared to the Ten Key Components.