Alcohol and drug abuse are significant factors in crimes committed against persons and property. In fact, in a recent study, the U.S. Department of Justice Report on Alcohol and Crime identified alcohol abuse as a factor in 40% of violent crimes committed in the U.S. Add in drug-abuse and the numbers grow larger yet. A large percent of U.S. inmates have an admitted drug or alcohol dependency. More than four in ten offenders nationwide return to state prison within three years of their release. This cycling of offenders in, out and back into jail has resulted in a massive increase in state spending on prisons.
Too many programs in use today only focus on impacting the offender while they are on the program and do little to change long term behavior. Evidence based 24/7 Sobriety Programs have been proven to both impact an offender’s behavior while on the program and change their behavior, reducing criminal recidivism, years after they have graduated from the program. The power of evidence based 24/7 programs is that they, by themselves or in consort with treatment, at a low or no cost to the taxpayer, can change people’s lives.
DUI – An important aspect of the problem
A particularly high-profile problem is “Driving Under the Influence” or DUI. Every year, an estimated one and a half million drivers are arrested for driving while intoxicated. About two-thirds of these drivers are first-time offenders, but the remaining one-third will become repeat offenders. Research indicates these individuals are over four times more likely to be involved in a fatal alcohol-related crash. They are at risk and they put others at risk.
Past efforts to combat DUI have not been successful
For decades, the principal methods for mitigating DUI offenses have been to suspend the offender’s driver’s license or, for multiple infractions, apply increasingly severe sanctions to incarcerate them, or impose vehicle monitoring devices. While these efforts to curb drunk driving have been somewhat effective, the data suggests that:
- Up to 75% of suspended drivers drive illegally
- Less than 40% of those ordered to place an ignition interlock device on their car actually follow the court order. If they do, the remedy only lasts as long as the device is on the car.
- Of those offenders that had an ignition interlock device placed on their car, their recidivism rates were dramatically reduced while the device was on their car, but after it was removed, they will reoffend at rates similar to an offender’s that never had a ignition interlock device on their car.
Relying on offenders to modify their own behavior (in the case of DUI, to stop drinking or to disable their car) conflicts with one of the hallmark traits of the alcoholic: denial. When sober, they don’t feel that they have a problem or need to change. But those same individuals, when under the influence, present an increased danger to society and not only when they are behind the wheel of a car.
DUI is but one crime that has a nexus to drug or alcohol misuse
Drug and alcohol addiction play a role in a wide range of crimes, especially those involving spousal or family abuse or neglect. While DUI is one of the most litigated crimes in the United States, domestic violence and child abuse and neglect are one of the most common. Anyone that watches any reality police show will quickly realize that alcohol and drugs play a disproportionate role in the crimes that the police address on a daily basis.
The bigger picture
Alcohol and drug abuse have been driving the criminal justice system in the United States for decades. A majority of inmates in most jail or prison facilities have alcohol and/or drug addiction issues, and a good many are there solely because of multiple DUI offenses. The cost to taxpayers, who foot the bill for law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, probations and parole departments, social services intervention, treatment facilities, and for building new jails and prisons to meet ever-increasing needs, is substantial and strains budgets for local, state, and federal governments. Government simply does not have the ability to spend as we have for decades to build new institutions and expand criminal justice services for people who abuse alcohol and drugs.
The costs are more than monetary
Less quantifiable but even more serious are the human costs of this problem: loss of life and limb, loss and bereavement of loved ones, medical and psychiatric treatment, the scarred life that results for an individual who has killed or injured others, and the loss of potential realized by individuals who have ongoing alcohol or substance-abuse problems.
A New Approach is Needed
Clearly, a solution is needed that effectively addresses the underlying problem of substance abuse and motivates repeat offenders to change their behavior and their lives.
An evidence based 24/7 sobriety management that utilizes strong social interaction between the participant and the testing authority, a program with structured testing and immediate consequences for compliant and non-compliant behavior, is a low cost efficient approach thot offers a significant step forward in this area.
24/7 programs can be effective as a standalone program or part of a continuum of services provided to the participant. See “The Solution: 24/7 Sobriety Program” section of this website to learn more about this novel approach.