Frequent Alcohol Testing Combined with Swift, Certain and Modest Sanctions Is Associated with Drop in Mortality
An innovative program that requires alcohol-involved offenders to abstain from alcohol and submit to frequent alcohol tests may be associated with a reduction in deaths, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Examining the 24/7 Sobriety Program in South Dakota, which started as a pilot in 2005, researchers found that county implementation of the program was associated with a 4% drop in deaths at the county level. The associations were most evident among causes of death associated with alcohol use, such as circulatory conditions.
The results are being published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Researchers say they were surprised by the magnitude of the negative association between program implementation and mortality, and emphasize that additional research is needed to better understand the size of this relationship and potential mechanisms. But if a negative association persists in future studies, the findings would represent a significant advance in our understanding of how criminal justice interventions may be used to improve public health.
The study shows that criminal justice interventions that reduce heavy alcohol consumption reduce mortality.
Further work is needed to better understand how programs like 24/7 Sobriety affect not only participants, but also those who are not direct participants such as their spouses, partners or peers,” say the researchers.
The South Dakota 24/7 Sobriety Program requires that individuals with an alcohol-involved offense undergo twice-a-day breathalyzer tests, typically once in the morning and once in the evening, or wear continuous alcohol monitoring bracelets. Individuals who fail or skip required tests are immediately subject to a short jail term, typically a day or two for a failed test.
Nearly 17,000 individuals—nearly 3% of the state’s adult population—participated in the 24/7 program between January 2005 and June 2011. Nearly half of the participants were enrolled after a repeat DUI offense, while others were enrolled after a first-time DUI offence or being charged with assault or domestic violence.
A previous RAND study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the 24/7 program reduced county-level repeat DUI arrests by 12% and domestic violence arrests by 9%.
That study also documented that 24/7 Sobriety participants had generated more than 2 million days without a detected alcohol violation during the first five years of the program. The comparable figure through 2013 was more than 4.5 million days without a detected alcohol violation.