Closely Monitoring People Involved in Alcohol-Related Crimes Can Reduce Deaths: Study

A program for people involved in alcohol-related crimes that closely monitors them for drinking may reduce deaths, a new study concludes.

People in the program undergo breathalyzer tests twice daily or wear bracelets that continuously check for alcohol, HealthDay reports. If a person skips or fails a test, they are immediately jailed for a short period, usually one or two days.

The program, conducted in South Dakota, was associated with a 4 percent drop in deaths, researchers from the RAND Corporation found. The findings were most striking among causes of death associated with excessive alcohol use, such as circulatory conditions, the researchers wrote in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

“Our findings suggest that criminal justice interventions that reduce heavy alcohol consumption may, in turn, influence mortality,” lead author Nancy Nicosia said in a news release.

Almost 17,000 people took part in the 24/7 Sobriety Program between 2005 and 2011 in South Dakota. Almost half of the participants had a repeat drunk driving offense. Others entered the program after a first-time offense for drunk driving, assault or domestic violence.

The program is being implemented in other parts of the United States, the article notes.

A previous study by the RAND Corporation found that in the first five years, the 24/7 Sobriety Program reduced the rate of repeat DUI arrests at the county level by 12 percent, and domestic violence offenses by 9 percent.

“Our results are consistent with research suggesting that frequent testing with swift, certain and fair sanctions for violations can improve public health and public safety,” said study co-author Beau Kilmer. “It is time to conduct experimental evaluations comparing 24/7 Sobriety with other drunk driving interventions to determine which option is most cost-effective at reducing injury and death.”

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