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Changes Coming To 24/7 Sobriety Program

January 8, 2014, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Changes Coming To 24/7 Sobriety Program

Nearly 32,000 people have been given a court order to enter South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Program, an innovative way to try and curb the issue of driving while intoxicated.

"We test them twice a day to ensure that they're not consuming alcohol. As long as they remain alcohol-free, they can stay out, continue to work, continue to support their families and the State's not burdened with the cost of the incarceration," program coordinator Art Mabry said.

The tests are done through a breathalyzer or an ankle bracelet, and the program is doing its job.

"When you get a 13 percent reduction in your recidivism rate of drunk driving, that is phenomenal. To get any reduction in that rate is great, 13 percent is phenomenal," Mabry said.

The success is not going unnoticed as other states, and even cities like London, are adopting similar policies.

Over the years, Mabry and the Attorney General's office have looked into ways to make the already successful program even better. They seek the council of Sheriffs from across South Dakota.

"These are Sheriff's whose agencies are in the trenches making this program work, and they see things that they think, yeah, this might be a little bit better," Mabry said.

This year, the plan is to make adjustments to some issues with fee collection. Instead of going through the Clerk of Courts to pay a fee for the breathalyzer and ankle bracelet, the offender can just pay the Sheriff's Office.

"The Sheriff's Offices are already collecting all the other fees, it only makes sense that they would start collecting those," Mabry said.

It is not a major change, and Mabry says the minor adjustments are a big sign of how successful the program has been from the start. For now, he sees no need to alter the program in a big way, because he believes it is saving lives all over the state.

"Absolutely. No hesitation in my mind. Absolutely," Mabry said.

Mabry suggests that any big changes will be the result of technology advancements. If any better testing options become available, they will go back to the legislature and make the appropriate adjustments to the statute.

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