Prison sentences are often utilized for two reasons. One is to punish the individual who broke the law. The other is to act as a deterrent to prevent others from breaking the law. Driving while under the influence (DWI) or drunk driving is an unfortunately common crime in today’s society. The crime risks serious bodily injury and death to both the driver and others on the road. However, despite this, many individuals repeatedly drive while under the influence. In order to determine what sanctions are most effective, a study was conducted on individuals who were repeat drinkers and drivers. The study was conducted by Sandra Lapham and Elizabeth England-Kennedy. It was published in 2012 and is entitled “Convicted Driving-While-Impaired Offenders’ Views on Effectiveness of Sanctions and Treatment.”

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Sanctions against individuals convicted of the offense include court-mandated treatment, revoking one’s license, house arrest and jail time. Many courts are now ordering repeat offenders to install an ignition lock in their automobiles. The ignition lock will not allow the car to be started until the driver passes a Breathalyzer test. In the study, repeat offenders were questioned with regards to effective sanctions. Multiple methods were used to collect qualitative data. Data revealed that individuals who had been involved in a DWI crash were less likely to have future arrests.

Individuals particularly noted that being handcuffed and taken to jail was an extremely negative experience. Individuals who served time in jail were less likely to commit future offenses. Individuals also expressed negatively with regards to the financial costs of the DWI. Treatment programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, did not show any consistent effect on the offenders. The most interesting aspect of the study was the effect that shame had on the offenders. Individuals who were shamed by their arrest and did not see themselves as the “typical” drunk driver were less likely to offend. The authors concluded that shame was an effective deterrent for this behavior. In addition, the authors believed that spending some time in jail also proved effective (Lapham & England-Kennedy, 2012, pp. 27-28).

  • Lapham, S., & England-Kennedy, E. (2012). Convicted driving-while-impaired offenders’ views on effectiveness of sanctions and treatment. Qualitative health research, 22(1), 17-30.