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Effectiveness: 4 Star Cost: $$$
Use: Unknown
Time: Varies

The most successful methods for controlling convicted DWI offenders and reducing recidivism have the common feature that they monitor offenders closely. Note that while these methods monitor sobriety, they do not actually prevent someone from drinking and/or driving the vehicle. Close monitoring can be accomplished at various levels and in various ways, including a formal intensive supervision program, home confinement with electronic monitoring, and dedicated detention facilities. South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project is one example of an intensive supervision program. Participants are prohibited from using alcohol or drugs as a condition of remaining in the community and avoiding incarceration. The program includes twice daily alcohol breath testing, transdermal devices that monitor for alcohol consumption, and random drug testing. If an offender tests positive for alcohol or drugs, they are taken into custody and appear before a judge within 24 hours. The goal is to ensure that consequences for violations are swift and certain.

For overviews of DWI offender monitoring and further references, see Century Council and National Association of State Judicial Educators (2008) and Goodwin et al. (2005). See also Wiliszowski et al. (2011) for more information about intensive supervision programs and descriptions of 8 different programs, and Fisher et al. (2013) for additional details about South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project. Information about transdermal alcohol monitoring, including 6 case studies, can be found in McKnight et al. (2012). DWI courts and alcohol ignition interlocks, discussed elsewhere in this chapter, also assist in monitoring offenders closely. Finally, guidelines for community supervision of DWI offenders are available from NHTSA (Dunlap et al., 2008).


The most commonly used transdermal device is SCRAM (secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring). In 2011 approximately 50,000 people were being monitored with SCRAM devices in the United States, roughly two-thirds of whom were DWI offenders (Fell & McKnight, 2013). Forty-nine States have used the SCRAM device with at least some offenders, and 34 States have used the device with more than 1,000 offenders (Fell & McKnight, 2013).

Presently, 24/7 sobriety monitoring programs or pilot programs are active in 14 States including Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming (Bloch et al., 2020).   


Intensive supervision programs, home confinement with electronic monitoring, and dedicated detention facilities all have been evaluated in individual settings and show substantial reductions in DWI recidivism. Studies examining the effectiveness of the 24/7 Sobriety Program implemented in North and South Dakota have found reductions in recidivism among DWI offenders enrolled in the program. In South Dakota implementation of the 24/7 Sobriety Program resulted in a 12% decrease in repeat DWI arrests and a 4% decrease in collisions by participants (Kilmer et al., 2013). Findings were similar in North Dakota, where the program reduced crashes and DUI arrests (Kubas et al., 2016). Continued enrollment in the North Dakota program was associated with significant decreases in recidivism after 60 days (29.7%), 1 year (34.2%), and 2 years (39.5%) (Kubas et al., 2017). In other studies recidivism was reduced by one-half in intensive supervision programs in Oregon (Lapham et al., 2006) and Connecticut (Barta et al., 2017), and by one-third in an electronic monitoring program in Los Angeles County, California (Brunson & Knighten, 2005; Jones et al., 1996).

A study examined the effectiveness of intensive supervision programs in Nebraska and Wisconsin. These programs used SCRAM to provide continuous monitoring of sobriety for drivers that had alcohol-related offenses (Tison et al., 2015). Offenders assigned to SCRAM were matched to a control group of comparable offenders that were not assigned to SCRAM. Recidivism, measured as re-arrests for an alcohol offense, was virtually nonexistent for those on SCRAM, and the SCRAM offenders who did recidivate once the device was removed remained compliant longer than offenders in the control group (360 versus 271 days in Wisconsin and 458 versus 333 days in Nebraska).


All close monitoring programs are more expensive than the standard high-caseload and low-contact probation, but less expensive than jail. Offenders in 24/7 programs typically pay $4 per day for breath testing, while electronic monitoring fees typically range from $5 to $10 per day (Fell & McKnight, 2013). SCRAM Systems’ 24/7 Sobriety Program Implementation Guide suggests a $2 fee per day for on-site breath testing and a $6 fee per day for remote electronic alcohol monitoring for participants (SCRAM Systems, 2018). A goal of 24/7 programs is to be self-sufficient (i.e., entirely funded by offenders). New Mexico estimated that intensive supervision costs $2,500 per offender per year compared to $27,500 per offender per year for jail (Century Councils, 2008). Dedicated detention facility costs can approach jail costs: $37 per day in a Baltimore County dedicated detention facility compared to $45 per day for jail. Offenders may bear some program costs, especially for the less expensive alternatives.

Time to implement:

All close monitoring programs require many months to plan and implement. Dedicated facilities require years to plan and build.