South Dakota criminal justice sobriety program reduces mortality

A criminal justice program launched in South Dakota that requires offenders convicted of alcohol-related offenses to stop drinking and submit to frequent alcohol testing has been linked to a reduction in mortality, according to research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The 24/7 Sobriety program was established in 2005. It required offenders to submit to twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet. Individuals who failed or skipped the tests received short jail terms lasting a day or two.

Between the program's inception in 2005 and 2011, all-cause mortality decreased 4.2 percent, with the most significant reductions occurring in women and individuals over the age of 40. Causes of death that declined after the program was implemented include heart disease and stroke.

"The study suggests that effective programs for alcohol-involved offenders may have benefits, not only for the participants themselves, but for the community as a whole," said George Koob, PhD, director of the NIAAA. "If these results are replicated in future studies, it could advance our understanding of how interventions within the criminal justice system can be used to improve public health."



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