A Natural Experiment to Test the Effect of Sanction Certainty and Celerity on Substance-Impaired Driving: North Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program
Objectives Evaluate the deterrent effect of a program that increases the certainty and celerity of sanction for arrestees ordered to abstain from alcohol and other drugs on substance-impaired driving arrests.
Methods We examine participant compliance with orders to abstain from alcohol and other drug use via breathalyzer, body-worn continuous alcohol monitoring devices, transdermal drug patches, and urinalyses. We then evaluate the impact of the 24/7 Sobriety program on substance-impaired driving arrests. Using variation across counties in the timing of program implementation in North Dakota as a natural experiment, we use difference-in-differences fixed effects Poisson regressions to measure the program’s effect on county-level arrests for substance-impaired driving.
Results Over half of participants ordered to abstain from substance use complete 24/7 Sobriety without a detected substance use event. At the county level, the program is associated with a 9% reduction in substance-impaired driving arrests after accounting for the impact of oil exploration in the Bakken region, law enforcement intensity, alcohol availability, whether the state’s large universities were in session, and socio-demographic characteristics. We find that the Bakken oil boom is associated with a 22% increase in substance-impaired driving arrests.
Conclusions The results suggest frequent monitoring combined with increased sanction celerity deters substance use-involved crime. While the results are generally consistent with an earlier study of 24/7 Sobriety in another state, differences in the study outcome measures implementation choices across states make direct comparisons difficult. More can be learned by conducting randomized controlled trials that vary time on program, testing technology, and/or level of sanction.
Decisionmakers continue to search for new ways to deter criminal behavior that do not rely on increasing the severity of punishment. This paper evaluates South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program—a novel, large‐scale intervention requiring those arrested for or convicted of an alcohol‐related offense to abstain from alcohol and submit to alcohol tests multiple times daily. Those testing positive or missing a test receive a swift, certain, and moderate sanction; typically, a night or two in jail. To estimate the causal effect of the 24/7 program on the probability of rearrest or probation revocation for those arrested for a second or third driving under the influence (DUI) offense, we instrument an individual’s 24/7 participation with program availability in the county of arrest. We estimate that the individual‐level probability of rearrest or probation revocation is 13.7 percentage points (49 percent; p = 0.002) lower for 24/7 participants than non‐participants 12 months after their DUI arrest. We detect substantive decreases at 24 and 36 months, but the precision of those estimates depends on model specification. These findings provide empirical support for applying “swift‐certain‐fair” sanctions to deter noncompliance in community supervision settings. This paper also provides policymakers with evidence for a new approach to reduce criminal activity among those whose alcohol use leads them to repeatedly threaten public health and safety.
Implementing Frequent Substance Use Testing with SCF Sanctions: Stakeholder Insights from a Pilot Program with Volunteer Probationers
Reducing substance use among individuals subject to community supervision is an important goal for many judges and community corrections officers. Some jurisdictions have had success by ordering justice-involved individuals to frequent substance use testing with swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctions for non-compliance. South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety program is one example of a SCF program that has also been adopted statewide in Montana, North Dakota, and other jurisdictions. As other entities outside the Great Plains attempt to adopt the 24/7 approach, there is a need to examine how the program is implemented. This paper examines a 24/7-inspired pilot program that was implemented in a southwestern county in the US in 2018. Data on participation rates and testing results for the 6-month pilot program were examined. Using a semi-structured interview protocol with questions that were adapted from the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) interview guide, we interviewed nine individuals from six stakeholder groups: 1) Court, 2) District Attorney, 3) Public Defender, 4) Probation, 5) Sheriff, and 6) the non-profit organization that administered the testing. There were important differences in how the program was implemented in the county versus South Dakota’s 24/7 program—namely, there was a different target population, participation was voluntary, and testing was conducted in a different setting which increased costs. While county stakeholders decided to discontinue the program after the pilot period, it was able to implement a SCF program and overcome many of the challenges it confronted. There is some interest in exploring implementation of the SCF with those arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in the county. For jurisdictions considering the implementation of an SCF program, it makes sense to start with a pilot program with pre-determined objectives and timeline for consistency. It is also crucial to hold regular meetings with all relevant stakeholders before and during the pilot to address context-specific challenges. Conducting an implementation analysis of this process based on the CFIR guide can be useful for understanding why the pilot was a success or failure, and how it may be improved.