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The drug court system developed out of necessity due to a combination of the judicial processes, substance abuse programs, and as a result of an increase in drug offenders in the criminal justice system (Lindquist et al. 2009). The majority of research on these drug court systems focuses primarily on criminal justice issues, psychological issues such as mental health and recidivism while lacking a more complete psycho-social perspective regarding social ties and networks (Lindquist et al. 2009, Mackinen and Higgins 2007, Bouffard and Taxman, 2004). The drug court program is an alternative route compared to more traditional correctional practices, such as incarceration, and uses longer-term methods over the course of

months or in some cases years to reduce rates of further drug abuse. The primary focus of the drug courts system is to provide an alternative to traditional sentencing by using a combination of psychological methods in the form of counseling and monitoring in addition to frequent drug testing (Lindquist et al. 2006). In general, drug court programs have largely failed to establish the social connections for participants to insure larger and more elaborate long-term social networks (Mackinen and Higgins 2007). In addition, the differing approaches that individual drug courts take in relation to other drug treatment programs and within the system itself leads to a lack of focused research outside of the effectiveness of the methodology and the result on crime rates (Bouffard and Taxman 2004). While some drug court programs have begun to focus on the importance of social networks in relation to recidivism by providing increased social resources and interactions few studies have looked into how these drug court programs could benefit from a more sociological analysis of its approach (May 2008). Additionally a more psychosocial angle to the more traditional approaches of the drug courts, however, can be extremely valuable. Many drug users - and participants in drug programs - tend to have poor social networks and/or are members of cohesive deviant groups that resist “positive” social change (Gilmore et al. 2005). Understanding the nature of the social networks in which drug court participants are embedded could therefore be one of the most important determinants that influence both program completion rates and recidivism dynamics. Much of the research on social networks in relation to drug courts and program success has traditionally focused on the size and impact of social networks on participants. While this research has provided crucial insights, it seems to de- emphasize the importance and potential impact of the resources inherent to the social network or “social capital.” To address some of these shortcomings, our study conceptualized social capital as an amalgam of four different types of network resources: emotional, financial, normative and symbolic/cultural resources. Our study operationalized and examined cultural capital. Cultural capital are network-specific resources that encompass knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has which may confer them a higher status in society and thus measurable benefits. Cultural resources are convertible to social and economic advantages. Examples of cultural resources are social skills and occupational know-how. Focusing exclusively on social capital, we explored the nature of social capital resources available to drug court participants within four of their primary networks and complemented these insights with the results of a Nvivo-assisted content analysis of 25 in-depth interviews. Results are not only discussed with reference to factors conducive to “program success” or processes that reduce future recidivism but also by offering a number of trajectories for future research. Faculty Advisers: Daniel Hatch and Toralf Zschau.


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  • Event location
    • Library Technology Center Open Classroom 269

  • Event date
    • 28 March 2012

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Daniel Hatch and Toralf Zschau