If you can prove that you haven’t been drinking – you can stay out of jail! Alcohol is the most commonly use mind altering substance in the United States, and for most people alcohol rarely results in adverse outcomes. Sadly, for a number of other people the use of alcohol can be a slippery slope, resulting in health, social, financial and legal problems.
When people are charged and convicted for crimes involving alcohol, they are often sent to jail for a varying lengths of time. While the practice has punitive effects, it does little to address addiction and learning to abstain from alcohol. Ten years ago South Dakota started a program that allowed alcohol offenders to opt out of jail by proving they are sober twice daily, the Associated Press reports. Since then, a number of states have adopted similar programs with promising results.
There was a time when South Dakota had the nation’s highest DUI rate, in the first five years of the program the rate of repeat DUI arrests dropped by 12 percent at the county level, according to a RAND Corporation study. The program also reduced domestic violence offenses by 9 percent.
The program requires participants to blow into a breathalyzer every morning and evening, the article reports. If a participant lives too far from a testing site, they are provided with alcohol-monitoring bracelets or motor vehicle ignition interlock systems. Failing the test results in immediate jailing for 12 hours on the first offense.
If a participant fails a second time they are jailed for 24 hours. On the third strike they are incarcerated indefinitely, and have to await an order from the judge.
A Sobering Trend
Following South Dakota’s lead, Montana and North Dakota are using a similar model, according to the article. Currently, five other states have begun, or are planning, pilot programs based off of the South Dakotan model.
“Simply warehousing people with chronic alcohol and drug offenses doesn’t work. It’s never worked. And the key is changing behavior,” said former Deputy Attorney General Bill Mickelson.
If you are or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, please contact Design for Change to begin the journey of recovery.