24/7 Sobriety Program Offers Alternative to Jail Time While Saving County Tax Dollars

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny poses at the CCSO during an interview about the 24/7 program
Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny poses for a photo at the CCSO during an interview about the 24/7 program.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny poses for a photo at the CCSO last week. H/t Michael Summers.

An interview with Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny

The 24/7 sobriety program helped him get his life back on track, one program participant said, by providing him with the sorely needed structure and discipline to help him finally get sober. The 30-something Gillette resident wished to remain anonymous as he readies to begin a new career but shared that after being arrested for a DWUI earlier this year, he’s more than ready to close the door on that chapter of his past. He credits the 24/7 program for helping to give him this second chance.

The program, passed by the state Legislature in 2014, is designed to help reduce the number of repeat alcohol and drug-related offenses by providing an alternative option for offenders in lieu of serving costly jail time.

Campbell County was among the first in the state to launch a 24/7 program, which began at the CCSO in September 2017. Since its inception, the 24/7 program has been helping participants – and taxpayers – alike. Spearheaded by the State Attorney General’s Office, the program allows those with a DWUI or other alcohol-related offense to live at home and work but under strictly enforced parameters that require program participants to take twice-daily breath or swab tests to ensure they are not drinking or using drugs while out of jail.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny is pleased with the success of the program thus far, he said during a recent interview with County 17, both in terms of saving the county money as well as providing first-time and non-violent offenders with a structured, no-nonsense regimen.

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“This is a program that allows participants to still be productive members of society, and not lose their jobs,” Matheny said. “Otherwise, they would be in jail for three, six or up to 10 months or who knows how long?”

Even better yet, Matheny noted, it saves the county a whole heck of a lot of money. Currently, there are 123 individuals in the 24/7 sobriety program, of which, 88 are active and following through on their commitments to the court. Given the daily cost of $129 it takes to house an inmate, Matheny estimates the program ends up saving the county roughly $11,352 per day.

It also places the onus on the participants by requiring them to check in at the CCSO two times a day – in the morning and evening before and after work – where they either perform a breathalyzer test to detect alcohol or a swab test for controlled substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.

When an individual passes their test in the morning, they are released to go about their day. The entire process for each test, from start to finish, typically takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes, Matheny said. Participants are also required to pay for their twice-daily tests, which runs about $2 for a portable breath test and $10 for an oral swab.

If a participant fails any of these daily tests, they will be incarcerated for 12 hours. A second failed test results in a 24-hour incarceration, while participants on their third offense go back before the judge for reevaluated sentencing.

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According to Matheny, the program has also drastically reduced the average number of inmates in the Campbell County Detention Center at any given time.

“Normally, this time of year, we would probably be at about 220 or 230 inmates, and now we are at about 160,” he said.

All around, the program is working pretty well, he continued, with a high rate of success for participants and reduced costs for the county.

“It’s a good program,” he said, “and seems to really be working.”