Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

John Kilwein

Committee Member

Corey Colyer

Committee Member

Shauna Fisher

Committee Member

Jeff Worsham


This study examined drug courts from a public policy and political science perspective. The first portion of the study focused on the history of sentencing policy from the 1970s through the drug court movement. The second chapter addressed gaps in the policy literature about how drug courts were created and how they evolved. Another focal point was determining how state-level actors such as legislators, state supreme courts, and bureaucratic agencies regulated drug court policy in each particular state. From this data, a continuum was formed to determine which states operated from a top-down management style for drug courts and which states operated from a bottom-up management style. This data allowed me to empirically test whether certain political science, criminal justice, and structure variables could account for the amount of state-level regulation into drug court policy. Partisan politics was associated with the amount of state-level regulation into drug court policy, and method of judicial selection was weakly associated with the amount of state-level regulation. In the final empirical chapter, drug courts from a bottom-up management state and a top-down management state were selected for case study analyses. Members of drug court teams were interviewed to determine the similarities and differences between the two disparate styles of management. Members of the drug courts teams members who had not received as much scholarly attention were also interviewed such as treatment counselors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and members of law enforcement to share their views on drug courts and describe their official duties. Finally, in light of the current opioid epidemic, members of the drug courts discussed how heroin and prescription pain killers are affecting their counties and what the drug courts and other entities can do to alleviate this problem.