South Dakota’s 24/7 Program Crosses the Pond

Today the mayor’s office in London issued a release announcing the initiation of a 24/7 sobriety program pilot, modeled after South Dakota’s successful 24/7 Sobriety Program, which mandates sobriety and tests offenders either twice daily at breath test centers or via continuous alcohol monitoring anklets, known in the UK as “tags” or “alcohol tags.” The BBC is running a series of stories on the new program.

South Dakota’s program garnered attention with the BBC in 2010, when reporters did an in-depth story on the program and some early results, which include high compliance rates and reduced recidivism long-term. The 24/7 concept, which has spread to states like Montana and North Dakota, involves mandatory sobriety for any DUI offender, stringent testing, and swift and sure sanctions for violations. If you have a positive test, you walk right into jail. South Dakota has seen extraordinary double digit drops in the rate of alcohol-related fatalities since initiating the program.

Front and center in this week’s U.K. coverage is Alcohol Concern, a U.K. national charity focused on bringing attention to the issue of alcohol misuse in the U.K. Their challenge to London’s proposed 24/7 program is that they want to ensure a temporary period of alcohol testing isn’t seen as the complete solution, and they’re advocating for integrated treatment/counseling to support long-term behavior change.

We couldn’t agree more. Alcohol Concern echoes what U.S. groups like the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime know based on years of cognitive-behavioral studies and recidivism research for treatment-based programs: If you’re sober, your treatment is going to be more productive, and if you have treatment, your long-term outcomes are far better than if you don’t. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals is a judicial organization formed solely to promote specialty courts that all focus on treatment as the basis for long-term behavior change.

According to Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor of London, 69% of Londoners welcome banning alcohol consumption for offenders, and only 14% think the state should pay for participation in the new program. The overwhelming majority believe the U.S. offender-pay model should be employed as they roll out their program in 2012.

Stay tuned for more on the application of 24/7 throughout the states and the U.K.!



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