Keith Humphreys and I just got a note from David Kennedy, expressing enthusiasm for the Sobriety 24/7 project, and in particular for the respect with which it treats the second-time DUI convicts whose behavior it tries to change. David notes that Sobriety 24/7 now joins a substantial list of successful projects built around “smart sanctioning” replacing random severity with predictable, quick, mild sanctions in a transparently fair and respectful process: HOPE, the Ceasefire gang violence reduction program in Boston and elsewhere, the low-arrest crackdown focused on drug markets in High Point and elsewhere, and the New York Police Department’s Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program.
Formal social control works mostly by leveraging informal social control: individual consciences and group norms. Respect and transparent fairness are the key. When the law enforcement system expresses hatred and contempt for offenders and the communities in which they live, that’s not just rude and stupid: it’s counterproductive. People who have been offenders are more likely to change their behavior if they can do so without sacrificing their self-respect.