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South Dakota initiative for alcohol offenders linked to reduced mortality

February 17, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A criminal justice system intervention that federal officials have classified as a promising practice may be associated with reduced deaths from causes associated with excessive alcohol use, a new study suggests.

The RAND study, supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in The Lancet Psychiatry, evaluated effects of the 24/7 Sobriety Program, a South Dakota initiative requiring individuals who have an alcohol-involved offense to undergo twice-daily Breathalyzer tests or wear alcohol monitoring bracelets. The study found that counties' implementation of the program was associated with a 4% decrease in deaths; the research team recommends additional studies to determine more definitively the public health benefits of this criminal justice intervention.

“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,” RAND senior economist and study lead author Nancy Nicosia said in a news release.

Around half of the program's participants have been enrolled after a repeat offense for driving under the influence (DUI). Previous RAND research linked 24/7 Sobriety, which the U.S. Department of Justice has designated as a promising practice based on research evidence, to a reduction in repeat DUI and domestic violence arrests.