1995 Finalist
Nassau County, New York
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
New York

Begun in 1992, the Recidivist Alcohol Probationer Program (RAPP) reduces drunk driving offenses in the most recidivistic DWI-convicted probationers by uniquely combining and aggressively applying a comprehensive series of control and rehabilitative measures in coordination with enforcement and treatment agencies countywide. Designed not as an alternative to incarceration, but as a rigorous community-based supervision approach, probation officers identify appropriate recidivist (generally felony) DWI offenders, and recommend a split sentence and RAPP supervision to the court.

RAPP works with the STOP-DWI treatment component at the Nassau County Correctional Center to coordinate treatment during the 60-180 day shock incarceration term and to develop post-release treatment planning. Upon release to community supervision, probationers are placed on rigid schedules and are electronically monitored for 60 days, including the random verification of out-of-home activities with electronic drive-by technology. Supervision also entails frequent reporting, breathalyzing and urinalysis, and routine home visits augmented by off-hour surveillance in a video camera-equipped unit vehicle. Highly publicized sting operations with the district attorney's office target and videotape likely unlawful drivers and deter others from following suit. RAPP also requires probationers to attend Victim Impact Panels operated in conjunction with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to further break down typical alcoholic denial and they must continue in monitored, mandated treatment. When eligible and approved for conditional re-licensing, probationers may additionally be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

The first priority of RAPP is to provide community protection. In 1991-1992, over 11,000 drivers were arrested in Nassau County for DWI offenses. Twenty-one hundred of these arrests followed accidents which resulted in over 1,400 injuries and 71 fatalities. During RAPP's last two years of operation (1993-1994), DWI fatalities in the county have decreased by 35 percent and none of the more than 900 probationers supervised by RAPP has ever been involved.

Closely connected to the objective of community protection is the reduction of recidivism. DWI offenders have a reoffense rate that the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board places between 30-40 percent. This not only jeopardizes public safety, but also strains all elements of the criminal justice system through increased court and correctional costs. In contrast, RAPP's DWI re-offense rate is 1.2 percent.