Because we view it as a proven winner in multiple ways in South Dakota, we wish to see creation of a 24/7 Sobriety Program in Iowa.

Disappointingly, it appears that won’t happen this year. A bill to introduce 24/7 in Iowa passed the Senate, but because it didn’t at least pass out of a committee in the House by the Legislature’s second “funnel” on March 11, it’s unlikely to receive further consideration during this session.

The goal of 24/7 is sobriety for alcohol-related offenders, 24 hours per day and seven days per week, resulting in reduced recidivism among those offenders.

The program in South Dakota – begun in 2005 – monitors abstinence from alcohol and drug use by convicted alcohol-related offenders, who are approved for enrollment in 24/7 by a judge, through a variety of tests conducted every 12 hours as an alternative to incarceration. Participants are required to cover the costs of their tests. If an offender fails or skips a test, he or she faces punishment, likely jail.

A study of South Dakota’s 24/7 Program from 2005 to 2010 by the nonprofit RAND Corp. research organization produced these findings: More than 17,000 alcohol-related offenders participated. The pass rate for 3.7 million breathalyzer tests administered to offenders under the program during those years was more than 99 percent. Repeat DUI arrests at the county level declined by 12 percent.

In other words, this self-sustaining program promotes abstention from alcohol in effective fashion and reduces alcohol-related crime.

A valuable byproduct of 24/7 is reduced jail population, something of particular importance here in Woodbury County where the jail is near capacity. In a March 10 guest Opinion column supportive of 24/7, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeremy Taylor said the Woodbury County Jail houses between 25 and 35 alcohol-related offenders on any given day.

Frankly, we see no negatives to creation of 24/7 for interested Iowa counties. We encourage the Legislature to find a way of pushing this innovative program to passage during this year’s session.

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