Experts and Comments

Much has been written about the success of the 24/7 Sobriety Program and about the South Dakota implementation where the concept was originally conceived and developed. Below are comments and reviews from key individuals involved in the daunting challenge of reducing DUI/DWI recidivism and other crimes impacted by substance abuse.

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Robert L. DuPont, M.D., IBHI President

Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. | Website

South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project is not just saving lives; it is reducing DUI recidivism and saving tax dollars. Jail populations have decreased in most counties across South Dakota and in the two largest counties these populations have dropped by almost 100 people on any given day. With jail costs estimated at $75 per day per person, the state is saving millions of dollars. At least part of these gains are due to the 24/7 Sobriety Project.

The 24/7 Sobriety Project is also an important response to critics who erroneously claim that it is not possible to stop DUI offenders from drinking and/or using drugs because they believe relapse is inevitable. It also belies claims that efforts need to focus exclusively on preventing DUI offenders from driving. If efforts to prevent driving without stopping drinking and drugging were possible and successful, there would not be so many repeat DUI offenses. It is the repeat DUI offenders that the 24/7 Sobriety Project identifies and positively impacts changes in behaviors.

The 24/7 Sobriety Project is continuing to evolve including plans to develop brief screening and intervention modules and formal links to adiction treatment. The comprehensive monitoring and care management model being developed for the 24/7 Sobriety Project has wide applicability within the criminal justice system, well beyond the DUI offense, because alcohol and illegal drug use are major contributors to crime and incarceration. This program demonstrates a powerful ability to stop alcohol and drug use and the criminal behavior that alcohol and drug use often lead to among arrested offenders. The program has been extended to a wide range of criminal charges related to alcohol and drug use, including domestic violence and civil abuse and neglect cases. These changes show the broad applicability of the 24/7 Sobriety Project, far beyond the original focus only on DUI offenders and alcohol use.”

Judge Larry Long

South Dakota Attorney General, 2002-2009

“The idea of the 24/7 sobriety program was born out of frustration, mine and others, that we prosecuted the same people over and over, with alcohol and drugs always involved. Clearly, we were not getting at the root of the problem in dealing with these offenders.

When we first proposed this idea, judges were skeptical and prosecutors were skeptical – both certain the result would be to fill up our jails and the court dockets for probation hearings. They became believers when the program proved to be successful for nearly everyone who entered it. It kept people out of jail and reduced the load on the court system and on law enforcement. Over time, judges began using the program for offenses other than DUI. Intoxication (through drugs or alcohol) is an exacerbating factor in many crimes. If you can remove it from the equation, many offenders won’t be a law enforcement problem.

The 24/7 program works like an electric fence works. The punishment is swift, 100% certain, but not severe. And that seems to be why the program is effective. I also think there is a therapeutic effect for offenders involved in a twice-daily program with a community of participants like themselves. They don’t feel singled out and they have others involved daily in addressing their addiction problem.

It’s been gratifying to me to hear from family members of offenders who see a real difference in their son or daughter or spouse as they become sober again and are able to sustain it over time. I believe that the 24/7 sobriety management program, which allows us to gather and analyze data related to these repeat offenders, will help us make real strides in the future in balancing punitive and treatment options that can help end the cycle and move people to permanent sobriety.”

Sheriff Don Holloway

Pennington County, SD (Sheriff from 1983-2010)

“People in law enforcement have been frustrated for years over the role that alcohol and drugs play in DUI cases, as well as other kinds of offenses. Putting individuals in jail for a year or in a penitentiary for two years got them off the roads, but it wasn’t long before they were having the same problems again. Our jail population kept growing. We built a new jail, then a new annex to the new jail. The costs were increasing, but the problem wasn’t being solved.

With the 24/7 sobriety management program, however, we’ve finally seen real progress. DUI offenders awaiting trial, where appropriate, are put on this program instead of going to jail. Offenders who are convicted might also be placed on the program, or have a shorter incarceration period followed by mandatory placement in the 24/7 sobriety program. Because of it, we’ve seen a reduction in our work release program, and in the number of people in our penitentiary because of DUI’s. The program grew more quickly than we expected because judges began to use it in other cases where alcohol or drugs were a factor: domestic abuse cases, burglaries — sometimes as a post-incarceration requirement.

I believe the program really can change behavior. We’ve had participants say “it’s the longest period I’ve ever been sober.” Once you can help them begin to have a different lifestyle, then they can think more clearly about their choices and their odds of maintaining sobriety do increase.”

Keith Humphreys, Ph.D. and Mark A.R. Kleinman, Ph.D.

Stanford School of Medicine and UCLA School of Public Affairs, respectively
Joint Statement

The efforts against drunken driving include checkpoints, steep fines, and ignition-locked cars. But alcohol-related road deaths have held steady for a decade-except in South Dakota. Under the state’s four-year-old 24/7 Sobriety Project, people convicted of repeated drunk-driving offenses are forced into sobriety for at least three months, during which time they submit to police-observed breath alcohol tests twice a day. No excuses are allowed. If they fail, refuse, or don’t show, sanctions begin with an immediate night in jail. Now the results are in: drunken-driving fatalities fell significantly since the adoption of the program. Statistics show that program veterans are half as likely as other DUI offenders to be arrested again.

Recently, North Dakota and Montana launched pilot programs of their own; at least two other states (and the city of London) are considering doing the same; and South Dakota is testing the idea on other offenders-domestic batterers, for example-who routinely commit crimes while intoxicated. And there’s additional good news: the program is nearly self-supporting. Offenders pay for the testing regimen, and those funds, in turn, pay for the program.

Keith Humphreys, Ph.D.

Professor (Research) of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and

CHP/PCOR Associate

Stanford School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

Mark A. R. Kleiman, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Policy

UCLA School of Public Affairs

Sheriff Mike Leidholt

Hughes County, South Dakota

“The South Dakota 24/7 sobriety management program began in Hughes County at the end of 2005, and we have about 80 people in the program today. While I had positive expectations at the outset, I was nevertheless surprised that some of the offenders put on the program could and did stay sober throughout the entire period required. It shows there’s a level of self-control that’s possible if the offender is adequately motivated — and the daily prospect of swift consequences for failing tests provides that motivation.

I don’t know yet if the program will move offenders to permanent sobriety, but certainly while they are on the program, the community is safer. It’s safer on the roads, and it’s safer in the homes of those offenders who are on the program for domestic abuse.

As an elected official who has to deal with budgets and costs, I see a double benefit. Not only is the program successful from a law enforcement perspective, but since it’s offender paid, it’s very cost effective for the county.”