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Program Profile: Decide Your Time (Delaware)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Randomized Controlled Trial

Date: This profile was posted on February 27, 2018

Program Summary

This was a program for chronic drug-using probationers that incorporated graduated sanctions with incentives to reduce recidivism and drug use among participants. The program is rated No Effects. Implemented in Delaware, the program was shown to have no impact on the successful completion of probation, on re-arrests, or on drug use.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The Decide Your Time (DYT) program in Delaware aimed to reduce drug use and recidivism among chronic drug-using individuals while they were on intensive supervision probation. All individuals eligible for DYT had to have been sentenced to Level 2 or 3 probation. Level 2 denotes standard probation requiring monthly contact with a probation officer, and Level 3 denotes intensive probation requiring weekly contact with a probation officer. Other inclusion criteria for program enrollment included 1) having a recommendation or mandate for substance abuse screening, 2) a probation duration of 6 months or longer, 3) an age of 18 or older, 4) fluency in English, and 5) a failed initial urinalysis. Exclusion criteria were 1) having a diagnosed psychotic disorder, 2) current conviction for sex offense, 3) evidence of neuropsychological dysfunction, 4) life expectancy of less than 6 months, and 5) probation or parole requirements that prevented protocol participation.
 
Program Activities
DYT modified existing probation procedures to include frequent random drug testing, swiftly delivered sanctions, and treatment referrals. Developed specifically to focus on the certainty of apprehension and on ensuring that the threat of sanctions was known, the modified procedures informed eligible probationers of what was required of them, what would happen to them if they failed to meet requirements (increased sanctions), and how to reduce their level of monitoring once they violated and triggered increased sanctions. The modified procedures provided a framework in which the deterrent effects of certainty and speed of sanctions, rather than of immediate severity, were the key elements. The program also made the sanction threat known and empowered the probationers by clearly informing them of the elements of their probation; thus, being able to “Decide Your Time.” Failure at any phase resulted from having a positive urine test or missed appointment with a probation officer (PO).
 
The DYT phases were as follows:
 
Start-up phase. Probationers met with their PO and received an explanation of the protocol. This included the DYT procedures, possible sanctions, and the ability to move to a lower level of probation. They were then given 2 weeks to prepare a sobriety plan. A list of Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, treatment providers, and other support mechanisms were provided, and probationers were informed of testing timing and protocol sanctions and incentives.
 
Phase 1: Random weekly urine tests. A procedure was used in which probationers were assigned colors and called in daily to see whether their color had been chosen that day. If it had, they were required to report to probation and provide a urine sample for testing. If they provided clean samples for 3 months, they would be placed on Level 2 probation, which requires only monthly reporting. This was intended to serve as a reward for positive behavior.
 
Phase 2: Failure at phase 1. This phase comprised 1) being held for 4 days in a probation violation center, and 2) mandatory Saturday morning treatment sessions. The Saturday treatment sessions were developed solely for DYT participants and were conducted by DYT POs based on motivational interviewing and cognitive–behavioral therapy principles. Urine testing was also increased to regularly scheduled, twice-a-week tests for 30 days. Compliance (no failed urine tests or missed appointments) for 30 days resulted in placement back into phase 1, requiring only weekly random tests and no Saturday treatment sessions.
 
Phase 3: Failure at phase 2. This phase added a 6 p.m. curfew to existing sanctions. Compliance for 30 days resulted in placement back into phase 1, requiring only weekly tests and no Saturday treatment sessions.
 
Phase 4: Failure at phase 3. Phase 4 resulted in being held for 5 days at a probation violation center, followed by return to phase 3. Subsequent failure in phase 3 resulted in termination from DYT, a formal violation of probation (VOP), and a hearing in front of a judge.
 
The participants were incentivized by the knowledge that 3 months of consecutive compliance in phase 1 resulted in moving down to Level 2 probation, requiring monthly rather than weekly reporting.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Successfully Completed Probation
At the 18-month follow up, O’Connell, Brent, and Visher (2016) found no statistically significant difference in the successful completion of probation between the Decide Your Time (DYT) group and the comparison group.
 
Arrest
The DYT program did not have a statistically significant impact on arrest rates of participants, compared with those in the comparison group.
 
Drug Use
The DYT program did not have a statistically significant impact on participant drug use, when compared with those in the comparison group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
O’Connell, Brent, and Visher (2016) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Decide Your Time (DYT) program, implemented in Delaware. A sample of 400 high-risk, chronic drug-using probationers were randomly assigned to standard probation (n=200) or to the DYT program (n=200). The DYT program modified standard probation procedures to include frequent random drug testing, swiftly delivered sanctions, and treatment referrals aimed at reducing drug use and recidivism.
 
Those eligible for DYT had to have been sentenced to Level 2 or 3 probation. Other inclusion criteria for program enrollment included 1) having a recommendation or mandate for substance abuse screening, 2) having a probation duration of 6 months or longer, 3) having an age of 18 or older, 4) English fluency, and 5) a failed initial urinalysis. Exclusion criteria were 1) having a diagnosed psychotic disorder, 2) current conviction for sex offense, 3) evidence of neuropsychological dysfunction, 4) life expectancy of less than 6 months, and 5) probation or parole requirements that prevented protocol participation. The full study sample was predominantly African American (54%) and male (85%), and the average age across groups was 21. There were no differences in demographics between the two groups.
 
Analysis was conducted to determine if placement in the DYT program lowered participants’ chances of being re-arrested and of having used drugs at the 18-month follow up. The recidivism outcome was measured as any re-arrests captured using criminal justice data routinely collected by the state; and drug use results were assessed by drug test failure, specifically, whether probationers in either study group failed a drug test. Bivariate and multilevel modeling strategies were implemented. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Consistent delivery of the Decide Your Time (DYT) condition was facilitated by an intervention manual, training prior to initiation of the study, and supervision of probation officers (POs) by the onsite evaluator. Topics covered in the intervention manual included a description of the study conditions, procedures for implementing the intervention, and  a series of questions to be asked of each client during scheduled supervision meetings. The POs were instructed in the underlying theory (deterrence) and instructed in the process of making the offender aware of the urine schedule and sanctions.

After project initiation, continued regular communication between the POs and research staff ensured that the intervention was delivered as designed. Furthermore, DYT officers completed “tracking forms” for all DYT clients that noted urine screens, scheduled visits, movement between DYT phases, and sanctions levied. These forms were continuously reviewed by the onsite evaluator to ensure daily program fidelity (O’Connell, Brent, and Visher 2016).
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Other Information

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Similar to Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), Decide Your Time (DYT) was designed to test the efficacy of providing increased monitoring with known, certain, and quickly enforced sanctions to reduce substance use and recidivism among probationers. DYT is not a replication of HOPE, but an experiment testing whether procedures based on the swift and certain principles of deterrence can reduce recidivism among chronic drug-using offenders on probation.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
O’Connell, Daniel J., John J. Brent, and Christy A. Visher. 2016. “Decide Your Time: A Randomized Trial of a Drug Testing and Graduated Sanctions Program for Probationers.” Criminology & Public Policy 15(4):1073–1102.

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

O’Connell, Daniel J., Christy A. Visher, Steven Martin, Laurin Parker, and John Brent. 2011. “Decide Your Time: Testing Deterrence Theory’s Certainty and Celerity Effects on Substance-Using Probationers.” Journal of Criminal Justice 39:261–7.


Tomlinson, Kelli D. 2016. “An Examination of Deterrence Theory: Where Do We Stand?” Federal Probation 80(3): 33–8.

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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Probation/Parole Services, Specific deterrence

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders, High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Not Active