A good idea that didn’t work.
Photo by Guilian Fremaux on Unsplash
In recent years the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program has been called into question due to concerns that is ineffective. The DARE program is a federally funding program that is meant to prevent substance abuse. The program is based on an educational design in which kids are taught about the dangers of drugs, gangs, and engaging in criminal/violent behavior. DARE was originally created ex-LAPD chief Daryl Gates in 1983 and was intended to reduce drug abuse and gang activity through prevention. This program was adopted by the federal and state governments and has been provided funding for decades which makes its efficacy extremely important to taxpayers as well as government decision makers.
DARE works by obtaining pledges from students which is a promise to not use drugs or participate in gang activity. The belief is that by educating and bringing attention to these issues, students will avoid the behavior. There is a large education portion of the program that is designed with live police presentation in schools. The program is segmented into different areas of concentration and takes place over a ten-week week period.
D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives (DARE, 2014). Over the decades, law enforcement both at the federal and state levels began adopting this program. The funding was appropriated through many different grants and foundations. The program was given a large degree of latitude despite the fact that it was unproven. This trend continued for approximately three decades. This growth would take the program into the tens of millions of dollars in funding support.
The program began losing funding in 2002 when questions from research questioning the efficacy of the program began surfacing. Operating expenses for DARE were decreased from $10 million in 2002 to $3.7 million in 2010 due to controversy and studies showing that program was ineffective (National Institute of Justice, 2014). The funding for D.A.R.E. continues to be in danger as research continues to show the program has low rates of effectiveness. This will likely continue as evidence supporting the program has not been produced.
D.A.R.E. was initially adopted by California as and provided grants for expanded operations and would eventually receive grant funding from private as well as government entities including the “U.S. Office of Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Bureau of Justice Administration, and various other sources” (DARE, 2014). The program also received funding from states as well as local entities such as legislatures and community programs.
The intended impact of DARE was to reduce drug abuse and criminal activity by educating youth early. This program of prevention had some issues from its beginning. Because it was a preventative program it would take decades to realize whether it was having a significant impact. As a result of overestimating and predictions for DARE, the program was allowed to expand into 75% of the United States school districts, with international sponsorship in 43 countries (DARE, 2014). However, the program funding began drying up when studies began returning results showing little significance in altering youth entering into drug and gang membership. Participants tracked from as early as 1983 showed that, “nearly 63 percent were re-arrested within three years, 47 percent were convicted of a new crime, and 41 percent were returned to prison or jail” (National Institute of Justice, 2014). Recidivism rates were tremendous with 63% in 1983 and then rising to 68% by 1994” (National Institute of Justice, 2014). Clearly by early 2000 there was a problem in the program. The statistics supported showed that not only was DARE failing to deter crime and drug abuse but in some instances, it appeared to be making it worse. New studies of similar programs have produced similar results such as with boot camps and scared straight programs which equally seem to have no impact on prevention or deterrence. New bodies of research are being implemented as the DARE program is phased out and new community-oriented corrections programs over incarceration seem to hold the most promise for drug and criminal prevention (John Howard Society of Alberta, 1998).
Programs like D.A.R.E. show how good ideas are often taken too far in the form of programs due to their good intentions. While this program appeared to be a good idea, it expansion was premature and cost millions of dollars across decades. This program highlights the need for better funding investigations for program development and perhaps more effective grant stipulations for performance metrics.
DARE. (2014). What Parents Can Do . Retrieved from Department of Justice: http://www.dare.org/keeping-kids-drug-free/
John Howard Society of Alberta. (1998). COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS. Retrieved from JOHN HOWARD SOCIETY OF ALBERTA: http://www.johnhoward.ab.ca/pub/C29.htm#effec
National Institute of Justice. (2014, March 14). Recidivism. Retrieved from National Institute of Justice: http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/pages/welcome.aspx
Vincent Triola. Fri, Jan 22, 2021. DARE Program Evaluation Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/dare-program-evaluation