Decide Your Time: Testing Deterrence Theory’s Certainty and Celerity Effects on Substance-using Probationers

Daniel J. O’Connell – Principal Investigator
Christy Visher – Co-Investigator
Steven Martin – Co-Investigator
Grant Bacon – Research Assistant
Laurin Parker – Graduate Research Assistant
John J. Brent – Graduate Research Assistant

Initiated: 2010

Funding Source: National Institute of Justice

Project Summary:

Delaware’s Decide Your Time program (DYT) is designed to manage high risk substance-using probationers by focusing on the certainty of detecting drug use through increasingly frequent drug tests coupled with graduated but not severe sanctions. Through a randomized trial and process evaluation of Decide Your Time, the Center for Drug and Alcohol studies is able to assess the program’s effectiveness, as well investigating the facilitators and barriers involved in implementing such a program. The overall project is designed to place responsibility for how time is spent on probation in the hands of the probationer. Developed from a combined model of deterrence and empowerment, the program informs eligible probationers of: (1) what will be required of them, (2) what will if they fail to meet requirements, and (3) how to reduce their level of monitoring once they trigger increased sanctions. A treatment component led by probation officers assists probationers once program sanctions motivate a readiness for change. The program, therefore, provides a model deterrent approach in which certainty and speed, rather than severity, are the key elements. In addition, it empowers the probationer by clearly informing him or her of how the program operates, thus allowing them to “Decide Your Time.” The project is expected to be completed in 2012.