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If you’re driving, the answer is obvious. But if you’re a court, or a probation officer, a lawmaker, or a treatment provider, it’s actually a question I’d like to post for further thought.

As technologies have made it possible to know precisely—daily—hourly—HALF hourly—exactly what people are putting into their bodies and with a great deal of reliability, the question of “Is he or isn’t he drinking/using” is actually changing in focus a bit. The days of guessing, trusting, depending on friends and loved ones to “vouch” for an offender’s sobriety have given way to data—and a lot of it. “Evidence-based” information is the research speak.  And the focus is invariably, almost exclusively, on the ones who drink or use, despite being monitored and the fact that there are criminal consequences. In marketing we‘re busy touting the ability to manage a caseload by focusing on only the ones who need intervention and action. Focus your time and resources on the ones who drink and use.

But what about the ones who don’t?

We’ve just passed the 220,000 clients monitored mark, and what’s more notable than the number of offenders we’ve confirmed drinking—is the ones we’ve confirmed who did not. What surprises many courts we talk to is that 80% of our clients who are monitored with SCRAMx have been fully compliant, while the grand majority of the remaining 20 percent have consumed alcohol or tampered only one to two times. That’s 20.2 million sober days and counting. And that’s just our technology. Drug testing programs that can confirm drugs days and weeks after use are highly effective. Interlock programs promote their “start fail” numbers—the number of times their technologies stop someone from driving a vehicle while intoxicated. But maybe what is more noteworthy are the greatly diminished rates of repeat alcohol offenses while they’ve got interlock installed.

HOPE Probation is a noteworthy program out of Hawaii that began with a judge who instituted mandatory, frequent testing with swift and immediate sanctions for violations. Local officials initially were concerned about what they perceived would be a rapid rise in violations—and the staff and facilities required to house those sentenced to a short time in jail for the violation. What surprised them all was that violations went down. Dramatically. A study of the program out of Pepperdine University showed an 85% reduction in missed appointments and a 91% drop in positive urine tests. All because of frequent testing and swift sanctions. What became notable was no longer the violations, but the compliance. The sober days.

Sober days are the ones without impaired driving, without substance-driven domestic violence. They’re the days offenders make their required appointments, get to treatment, report for work, and help care for their families. Which focus do you have as you manage offenders in your program each day? Are both important? Or one more than the other?

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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