Criminal Deterrence

Evidence From an Individual-Level Analysis of 24/7 Sobriety

Published in: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (2020). doi: 10.1002/pam.22217

by Beau Kilmer, Gregory Midgette

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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.

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