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Tennessee DUI school program's effectiveness questioned

In 2011, Tennessee began a program, using a curriculum from a Kentucky-based program, to help reduce the rate of recidivism for DUIs in the state. The program, known as "Prime for Life" became the standardized curriculum in the Tennessee DUI schools.

However, a new report raises questions as to the effectiveness of the program, as the study finds that the numbers of repeat second- and third-time DUI offenders have increased in Tennessee.

The study, based on Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) data, found DUI arrests increased by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011. From 2010 to 2012, it found that DUI arrests had gone up 23 percent.

Of course, this increase for first time offenders would be unaffected by the curriculum in DUI schools, as it is unlikely that they would have experienced the program without a prior DUI arrest.

The report does claim that the percent of repeat DUI offenses in Tennessee had increased from 21 percent in 2009 to 25 percent by mid-2012.

These numbers could be related to the increase in driving that has taken place since the reduction in miles driven that occurred during the recession.

The report's author says the state should release the data that would indicate the recidivism rate for DUIs of people who went through the Prime for Life program.

To evaluate that program's effectiveness, the state would have to release the numbers of repeat offenders who had completed the program after their first arrest. Nonetheless, it still may be too soon to determine the effectiveness of the program, as the sample size of graduates may still be small.

DUI school programs need to be as effective as possible, but even the worst performance would be no worse than the usual incarceration model, which fails to address the addiction or substance abuse and sends these offenders out with no alteration of their behavior.

Memphisflyer.com, "New Study Shows Efforts to Reduce DUI Recidivism Don’t Work," Lois Goggans, September 11, 2014

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