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We launched Sobering Up to coincide with a milestone at AMS: 200,000 monitored offenders. Not just to pat ourselves on the back, which we generally aren’t going to do in this blog, but because with that 200,000 monitored have come some important lessons. Sometimes we were surprised, and often we’ve been humbled.

To mark this milestone, we’re launching the “200k Insight Series,” aimed at educating our customers and sharing with the industry some of the many things we’ve learned and the behavioral trends we see in alcohol-dependent offenders.

The 6 Most Important (or Most Surprising) Lessons We’ve Learned

  1. Working with the court ecosystem is more complex than we anticipated. There are no common incentives. Some officials are elected, others are not (though their policies are determined by yet other elected individuals). Budgets are diversified and agendas are spread among many groups, each often tasked with competing expectations. We’ve learned that when a court ecosystem manages to defy the obstacles that bureacracies inherently put in place, it’s magical. But there are a number of systemic challenges that make that difficult for most.
  2. People struggling with alcohol dependence will go to extraordinary lengths to try to beat the system and drink.  Just when we think we’ve heard it all, there is yet another creative way that someone has attempted to defeat our system in order to drink undetected. While some of these scenarios do provide some humor from time to time, we know that in reality, they illustrate the struggles these individuals face every waking minute of every day. Wearing SCRAM isn’t easy for anyone. Wearing SCRAM when you’re alcohol dependent or addicted is incredibly difficult.
  3. The unintended consequence of organizations like MADD is that they’ve deployed a “flavor of the decade” approach to solving the drunk driving issue. Yank offender licenses (they just drive anyways), install interlock on every car (well, they just drive anyways). It’s unintended, but the result is a fragmented approach to solving an issue that is far more complicated than any single solution. The current flavor of the decade: It’s all about the car. That will be a future blog.
  4. The automatic assumption of almost anyone we encounter is that our primary mission is to “bust” offenders and be tough on crime. This always surprises me. Our mission is simply to provide reliable and cost-effective data. And 80% of everyone we monitor is fully compliant their entire time on SCRAM. They’re using our data to show success to the court. No one is routing for our clients more than we are.
  5. Despite the overwhelming evidence that excessive drinking is a root problem and drives repeat drunk driving offenses, 80% of all alcohol-involved offenders go through the system with no alcohol monitoring at all. Yet the system is full of alcohol monitoring options: Ignition interlock, remote breath testing, Continuous Alcohol Monitoring, EtG, and twice-a-day testing.
  6. Many of the treatment providers that service the courts do not want to know that their clients are drinking. They are torn between their obligations to the client and their responsibilities to the court. Relapse is an expected part of treatment and an opportunity to teach lifelong skills for dealing with the issue. Relapse in the judicial system requires graduated sanctions and often severe consequences.

This industry and this issue are incredibly complex, and the better we all get at identifying the challenges, the more we can focus in unison on the solutions. I want to continue to explore these and other pertinent topics in Sobering Up, and I look forward to the opportunity to hear from all of you!

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.

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