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Research Institute on Addictions, 1021 Main Street, Buffalo, New York 14203-1016, USA
Rensselaer County Probation Department, Court House Annex, Troy, New York 12180, USA
This study represents a 10 year follow-up of 85 individuals from upstate New York that were on probation as the result of a drinking-driving conviction. Of the 85 individuals, 25 were not assigned to alcohol treatment as part of their probation conditions, while 60 successfully completed alcohol treatment programs. There were no differences between the two age groups for age (30.29), education (11.57years), prior alcohol treatment (61%), number of previous drinking-driving convictions (2.26), or presence of arrests for crimes other that drinking-and-driving (58%). Comparisons between the two age groups of individuals were made for subsequent DWI arrests, any type of subsequent arrest, and the time between the original arrest date and a subsequent arrest.
The no treatment group was significantly more likely than the treatment group to be rearrested for drinking-and-driving (64% vs. 40%). Additionally, the no treatment group had a larger number of subsequent drinking-driving offences (1.04 vs. 0.53), a greater number of subsequent arrests for crimes other than DWI (2.00 vs. 1.08), and a shorter duration of time between the initial arrest and a subsequent arrest (2.67 years vs. 4.61 years) than the treatment group. These results suggest that alcohol treatment may have played a significant role in reducing continued drinking-and-driving by this more severe group of offenders.
Many criminal offenders have significant life problems related to alcohol and/or drug use (Lightfoot and Hodgins, 1988). Incarcerating these individuals or placing them on probation or parole with no provisions for alcohol or drug treatment may not be enough of a rehabilitative measure to alleviate the problems and prevent subsequent arrests. There is some recent evidence that suggests alcohol and/or drug treatment may be effective in reducing criminal behavior. A study of 1,900 participants in California treatment programs, found that 73.6% of treatment participants had been involved in some criminal activity in the year prior to their treatment, while only 20.3% committed crimes in the year following their program (Gerstein et al., 1994). In a study of Treatment Alternative Programs in Wisconsin, it was found that 43% of program completers were rearrested as compared to 74% of noncompleters (Van Stelle et al., 1994). Furthermore, in a two year follow-up of high risk drinking-driving offenders Nochajski et al. (1993) found that the recidivism rate for criminal offenders that completed an alcohol treatment program was 13% lower than the recidivism rate for a group that did not complete treatment.
The above cited evidence suggests that providing alcohol or drug treatment to criminal offenders may help reduce criminal behavior. The current study investigates the impact of probation and two approaches to treatment for convicted drinking-and-driving offenders across a ten year follow-up period.
The participants were 78 male convicted drinking-drivers that were placed on probation for a drinking-and-driving offense in late 1983 or early 1984. The sample was primarily white (97.4%), had a mean age of 30.33 (S.D.=9.35), with over 30% not having a high school degree, and approximately 28% unemployed at the time of sentence to probation. In terms of criminal history, over 60% had a prior record for crimes other than DWI and the mean number of prior drinking-driving offenses was 2.28 (S.D.=1.76).
There were three groups of offenders. The first group consisted of 25 individuals sentenced to incarceration who were then placed on probation following their incarceration period. These individuals did not receive any alcohol treatment. This group is referred to as the probation only group. The second group consisted of 25 individuals that served no jail time but were sentenced to probation. Standard probation supervision refers the probationer for an alcohol evaluation and if treatment is recommended it takes place with little or no probation involvement. Contact between alcohol counselors and probation officers is limited to infrequent telephone contact or treatment update letters to the probation officer. This group is referred to as the treatment plus probation group.
The third group consisted of 28 individuals that were part of a Probation Alcohol Treatment program (PAT). For the PAT program the offender had to be on probation for an alcohol-related offense, had two prior drinking-and-driving convictions, and they must have qualified for an alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence diagnosis. Excluded from PAT were those individuals with only one prior drinking-and-driving conviction or individuals currently engaged in alcoholism treatment at any agency other than those involved with the program. This is a team approach to reducing drinking-and-driving within a population of recidivist drinking-drivers. A team of alcohol counselors and senior probation officers work together rather than as separate agents. The co-facilitation of alcohol treatment groups by alcohol counselors and senior probation officers and team case conferencing of individual clients are essential components of the program.
There are three comparisons of interest in the current study: probation only versus PAT; probation only versus treatment plus probation; and PAT versus treatment plus probation. The first two comparisons provide information concerning the effect on rearrest rates of adding treatment to a probation sentence. The third comparison provides some information concerning the relative effectiveness of the two types of approaches to treatment for probationers.
Table 1 shows the demographic and criminal history characteristics for each of the groups. The PAT and probation only groups did not differ in terms of age, last school grade completed, prior treatment for alcohol or drug problems, percent with prior arrests for crimes other than drinking-and-driving, and number of prior drinking-and-driving convictions. However, PAT individuals were more likely than the probation only individuals to be employed at the time of probation sentencing (p<.10). Thus, except for employment, the PAT and probation only groups were basically equivalent.
Demographic and Criminal History Characteristics as a Function of Group
|Variable||Probation Only (n=25)||Treatment + Probation (n=25)||PAT (n=28)|
|Age||29.16 (6.36)||32.64 (13.79)||29.32 (6.10)|
|Last School Grade Completed||11.08 (1.86)||12.04 (1.88)||11.68 (1.79)|
|Employed at time of Probation||56%||80%||79%|
|Prior Treatment for Alcohol or Drug Problems||56%||56%||68%|
|Percent with Prior Convictions for Crimes other than Drinking-and-Driving||72%||40%||75%|
|Number of Prior Drinking-Driving Convictions||2.28 (1.95)||1.84 (2.17)||2.68 (0.95)|
Comparisons between the treatment plus probation and the probation only groups showed no differences for age, prior treatment for alcohol or drug problems, or number of prior drinking- and-driving convictions. There were differences for last school grade completed (p<.10), employment status at time of probation (p<.10), and prior arrests for crimes other than drinking- and-driving (p<.05). Relative to the probation only group, the treatment plus probation group appears to be less severe.
There were no differences between the PAT and treatment plus probation groups on age, last school grade completed, employment status at the time of probation, or prior treatment for alcohol or drug problems. However, there were differences for prior arrests for crimes other than drinking-and-driving (p<.01) and number of prior convictions for drinking-and-driving (p<.10). Thus, the treatment plus probation group appears to be the least severe group, while the probation only and PAT groups appear to be relatively equivalent. Given the differences between the groups, subsequent group contrasts used age, education, employment, prior arrests for crimes other than drinking-and-driving and number of previous convictions for drinking-and-driving as covariates.
The follow-up outcome measures used in this study were derived from Department of Criminal Justice records obtained in February of 1994. The follow-up time ranged from 9 years and 4 months to 11 years and 10 months, with a Mean of 10 years and 1 month (S.D.=5.56). There were no differences between the three groups in the length of follow-up time available. The measures consisted of whether any violation of probation orders were filed, the total number of arrests not traffic related (speeding etc.), the number of arrests for drinking-and- driving, and the number of arrests for crimes other than drinking-and-driving. In addition, the length of time between the arrest that brought the individual in contact with the probation system and the first subsequent arrest were evaluated.
Table 2 shows the means, standard deviations, and adjusted means for subsequent arrest characteristics as a function of group. Both the PAT (p<.005) and the treatment plus probation group (p<.001) were much less likely to have violation of probation orders filed against them than the probation only group.
Subsequent Arrest Measures as a Function of Group
|Variable||Probation Only (n=25)||Treatment + Probation (n=25)||PAT (n=28)|
|Violation of Probation||52%||8%||11%|
|All Subsequent Arrests|
|Criminal Offenses (Property, Violent, and Drug)|
|Time in months to first subsequent arrest|
The PAT (p<.01) and treatment plus probation groups (p<.01) both had significantly fewer arrests than the probation only group but did not differ from one another. However, when the types of arrests were considered, the results indicated differential effects. Compared to the probation only group, the PAT group had significantly fewer arrests for crimes other than drinking-and-driving (p<.05), while once the means were adjusted, the treatment plus probation group showed only a marginal decrease (p<.10). In contrast, when drinking-and-driving arrests were assessed, the treatment plus probation group had significantly fewer arrests (p<.05) than the probation only group, while the PAT group showed only a marginal decrease relative to the probation only group (p<.10). The two treatment groups did not differ from one another.
Finally, compared to the probation only group, the PAT group showed a marginally longer period of time between the arrest that placed them on probation and the first subsequent arrest (p<.10). The treatment plus probation group did not differ from either the probation only or PAT groups on this measure.
The findings indicate that the combination of probation and treatment was more effective in reducing arrest rates than probation alone. This finding is particularly important for the PAT group because of the high risk indicated by their prior history. The reduction of drinking-and-driving arrests by more than a third and other criminal arrests by 60% suggests that this type of program can be effective with high risk individuals. A similar type of program has also been successful with convicted drug users placed on intense parole supervision (Smith and Berlin, 1988). These findings suggest that combining alcohol or drug treatment with closer monitoring of high risk probationers could prove to be an effective means in reducing recidivism.
While the sample was basically Caucasian in makeup, and the numbers were small, this study provides important information concerning the effectiveness of combining alcohol or drug treatment with sanctions for reducing arrest rates. The results need some replication with larger samples and offenders of other racial and cultural backgrounds. However, the preliminary evidence suggests that this type of program may be an effective alternative to incarceration.
Gerstein, D. R., Johnson, R. A., Harwood, H., Fountain, D., Suter, N., & Malloy, K. (1994). Evaluating recovery services: The California drug and alcohol treatment assessment (CALDATA). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
Lightfoot, L. O., & Hodgins, D. (1988). A survey of alcohol and drug problems in incarcerated offenders. The International Journal of the Addictions, 23(7), 687-706.
Nochajski, T. H., Miller, B. A., Wieczorek, W. F., & Whitney, R. (1993). The effects of a drinker-driver treatment program: Does criminal history make a difference? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 20(2), 174-189.
Smith, B. A. & Berlin, L. (1988). Drug addiction, crime, and treatment. In A. B. Smith & L. Berlin, Treating the criminal offender (pp. 197-235). New York: Plenum Press.
Van Stelle, K. R., Mauser, E., & Moberg, D. P. (1994). Recidivism to the criminal justice system of substance-abusing offenders diverted into treatment. Crime & Delinquency, 40(2), 175-196.