"I'm just not sure what we are going to do with her" : ambivalence and conflict in drug court decision-making

Access full-text files




Baker, Kimberly Michelle, 1976-

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This project is designed to take an in-depth look at drug court, the most common form of specialized courts. This project will further elaborate our understanding of team decision-making. The fact that the drug court is collaborative rather than adversarial has been hailed as one of the key innovations that makes drug court better able to respond to addiction than the traditional criminal justice system. So far, very little work has been done on how the team members work together in the court. I will show that, among team members, there is ambivalence over how to understand addiction and what to expect from clients. In addition to this conflict at the organizational-level, I will also show that staff members experience conflict with each other over why and how punishment should be used. I conducted a four-month case study of a drug court located in a medium-sized city in the southwestern United States. I supplemented this case study with observations at a second drug court located in small city in the same state. Based on this research, I will show that the drug court staff experiences conflict over how to treat addiction effectively. I will then argue that the drug court staff’s conflicting expectations of clients actually encourages lying about rule-breaking behavior. Finally, I will focus on negotiations between the judge and counselors as they respond to troubled clients. By focusing here on the tensions that arise in the daily work of drug court, I will show that there are some essential problems in drug court design that still need to be worked out at ideological and practical levels. By shining light on these conflicts, I hope to help drug court practitioners to think about how we can improve on the program.