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THE 24/7 PROGRAM

The safety and security of Florida’s citizens could be enhanced by an innovative new program directed at reducing drunk driving. The 24/7 Program, promoted by, among others, South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, takes a unique new approach by telling drunk drivers, “If you drinkauto crash and drive, we’ll make you stop drinking.” This is a program that treats both the symptoms and the disease. Because the safety and security of our families, coworkers and friends relies on safe highways upon to travel, Citizens for Florida’s Future is working with Florida’s policymakers to promote this program in Florida Below are excerpts from General Long’s article on the 24/7 Program.

The Honor System Doesn't Work

The probation system in South Dakota and most states is essentially an honor system. Defendants on probation are required to meet with their probation officers on a regular basis, often monthly. Probation officers otherwise have little day to day contact with defendants unless they are re-arrested, usually for an unrelated criminal offense. In truth, in many instances supervision is provided by local law enforcement because most probation offices lack the resources or the personnel to meaningfully “supervise” the probationers assigned to them.

Parole officers face similar challenges. They are burdened with very large caseloads and limited resources. In South Dakota, 40 percent of parolees are re-arrested within five years of release.

A Better Way: The 24/7 Sobriety Project

handcuffsThe usual message to drunk drivers is, “if you don’t quit drinking and driving, we will make you quit driving.” Enforcement efforts are geared to keeping drunk drivers off the road. This is done through license suspensions or revocation, and incarceration for repeat violations. Because of the honor system approach to probation, many offenders continue to drive illegally and are held to account only when they are re-arrested. The system is simply not designed to address the underlying problem of alcohol and illegal drug dependency or addiction.

The 24/7 Sobriety Project is a better way. The 24/7 Sobriety Project’s message to drunk drivers is, “if you don’t quit drinking and driving, we will make you quit drinking.” Although not a substitute for drug and alcohol treatment, the project attacks alcohol dependence and addiction in a new and more direct way.

A 24/7 Sobriety pilot project was launched in three South Dakota counties in February 2005. The target group was DUI defendants with at least one prior DUI conviction within the previous 10 years. At the request of the project, judges imposed a special set of bond conditions on the target group. The conditions were:

1) defendants must completely abstain from the consumption of alcohol;

2) defendants must report to a test site (typically the sheriff’s office) every morning at 7 a.m. and every evening at 7 p.m. and submit to a test of breath, blood or other bodily substance for the consumption of alcohol.

Defendants who tested positive were immediately incarcerated for violating the bond condition. Bench warrants were issued for defendants who failed to report to the test site on time. All defendants who violated a bond condition were incarcerated for 24-hours before making a court appearance where the same conditions were imposed.

The design of the 24/7 Sobriety Project is based on the electric fence or hot stove principle. Persons who touch an electric fence or a hot stove are penalized immediately with an electric shock or a burn. The sanction is not severe, but is immediate and certain. After being shocked or burned once, they will avoid touching the fence or stove a second time. The working group believed that 24/7 participants would respond similarly. After failing once and immediately spending a day in jail, they would stay sober to avoid being jailed a second time. Data gathered on participants showed positive results. Defendants who had not been sober for decades were reporting twice-per-day and testing clean. The working group was delighted by the results but faced certain difficulties.

To start, the pilot project only targeted drunk drivers. Three challenges soon developed and needed to be addressed. First, some defendants had legitimate excuses that precluded them from appearing at the test site twice-a-day; second, there was a need to test for illegal drugs in addition to alcohol; and third, the program needed to be expanded beyond drunk drivers. S.D. Attorney General

SCRAM Bracelets

The pilot program worked very well when participants could get to the test site without difficultySCRAM twice daily. Participants with work-related problems often found it difficult to report to the test site at the scheduled times. Some had odd work schedules. Some lived 40 or 50 miles from the test site; this is commonplace in South Dakota. Many counties in South Dakota are so rural that the only law enforcement personnel are a sheriff and a deputy. In counties lacking the personnel to perform testing twice a day, defendants were issued SCRAM (Secure Continuance Remote Alcohol Monitoring) bracelets to monitor their alcohol and drug use.

SCRAM bracelets are battery operated devices worn on the leg. Every half hour, they collect and analyze wearers’ sweat gland emissions for the presence of alcohol. The accumulated information is remotely transferred to a modem attached to a landline telephone; the modem and bracelet communicate whenever they are within 40 feet of each other. The modem transfers the data via a daily telephone call to the vendor’s computer. The following day, the sheriff or probation officer receives an email indicating whether the wearer has stayed sober, consumed alcohol, cut off the bracelet, or tampered with the device. SCRAM bracelets have proven to be an effective alternative to twice-per-day testing. Bracelet wearers are not required to report to the sheriff except for device maintenance or in the event of a violation. South Dakota has nearly 400 bracelets in operation daily.

 
WEBSITE LINKS
Drinking and Driving Org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Great Beer Great Responsibility
DrinkIQ
ARTICLE LINKS