Research and advice bureau Breuer&Intraval has performed an evaluation on the ‘Alcoholmeter’ pilot that took place during the year 2018. The evaluation was commissioned by the SVG (Stichting Verslavingsreclassering GGZ, the Dutch Probation Service for addicted offenders) on behalf of the three Probation Services in the Netherlands. The pilot was a continuation of the pilot in 2017 and was carried out in both the city of Rotterdam and the east of the Netherlands. A difference between the two pilots was that in 2018 the target group eligible for an ‘Alcoholmeter’ had been extended. Besides clients who had an alcohol ban, now also clients with a mandatory or voluntary alcohol check could choose to wear the ‘Alcoholmeter’ instead of having their urine checked. Both groups were allowed to drink alcohol during their wearing period of the ‘Alcoholmeter’.
A total of 91 offenders were connected to the ‘Alcoholmeter’ in 2018. 42 of them participated in a questionnaire after the wearing period of 75 days (1-measurement), and 33 (out of 42) also took part in the measurement that was conducted three months after the device had been removed (2-measurement). In addition to the questionnaires registration data from probation services and the police were requested and consulted.
Furthermore, a comparison group was added to the research at the request of the supervisory committee. Thus, there were registration data from the probation service and the police for 75 clients who did not wear an ‘Alcoholmeter’ but for whom urine checks were part of their probation supervision.
According to the alcohol meter measurements, 27 (out of 42) carriers did not drink alcohol during the wearing period. All but one of these carriers indicated that they did not drink alcohol.
There were some technical issues however. For example, two fifths of the carriers indicated that they experienced technical problems during the wearing period. The frequency of this varied from one to five times, one time being mentioned most often. The SVG indicated that indeed there had been technical communication errors between the base station and the ‘Alcoholmeter’ and that as a result the base stations were replaced halfway the year 2018.
In general, the carriers were positive about the effect of the ‘Alcoholmeter’. More than half of them indicated that wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’ had a positive effect on their alcohol consumption and awareness. In addition, the measurements from the ‘Alcoholmeter’ showed that the majority (two third) did not drink alcohol during the wearing period, even though some of them (compulsory and voluntary check) were allowed to do so.
The results of the measurements of the ‘Alcoholmeter’ carriers have been compared with the results of the group subject to urine checks. This comparison showed that the number of carriers who did drink alcohol while wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’, did not significantly differ from the number of clients who drank alcohol during their urine check period. However, a significant difference did seem to be there. In consultation with the supervisory committee it was therefore decided to compare the data from the ‘Alcoholmeter’ measurements of the total number of carriers (including those who did not participate in the research) with the data and results of the group subject to urine checks. From this comparison, a clear significant difference did emerge and the outcomes showed that wearing an ‘Alcoholmeter’ had a positive influence on one’s drinking behaviour. However, when the check was made for the entire duration of wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’ and the period of the urine checks, this significant difference was not visible anymore.
The positive influence on drinking behaviour even seemed to last after people stopped wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’. For example, two thirds (23) of the 33 carriers who participated in the measurement, indicated that they did not drink alcohol in the three months following the removal of their ‘Alcoholmeter’.
Wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’ also seemed to have a positive influence on the criminal behaviour of the carriers. The data from the police showed that only a few carriers were registered at the police for committing an offence during their wearing period or the three months after . The carriers themselves also believed that the ‘Alcoholmeter’ had a positive effect on their criminal behaviour. According to more than half of the carriers the ‘Alcoholmeter’ could help stop criminal behaviour in the short term, while half of them considered it to also have a positive long-term effect.
The criminal behaviour of the carriers was compared with the behaviour of the other group probationers (subject to urine checks). This comparison showed that the number of carriers registered in the police records during the wearing period was smaller than the number of clients who committed an offence during the urine check period. This difference continued to exist after the removal of the ‘Alcoholmeter’ or after the urine check period.
The carriers mentioned various advantages of wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’. For example, they found it positive not to have to report for breath, blood or urine checks. Other benefits mentioned were the continuous measurements of the ‘Alcoholmeter’, the fact that it helped to stop drinking alcohol and to make you more aware of your drinking behaviour.
The most prominent disadvantage of the ‘Alcoholmeter’ was its size and therefore the lack of wearing comfort. The carriers indicated that the ‘Alcoholmeter’ was too large and not flexible enough. In addition, the carriers indicated that they experienced side effects when wearing the ‘Alcoholmeter’. This included itching, irritated skin, rash, scrapes, or bruises. Reducing the size of the ‘Alcoholmeter’ (and thus increasing wearing comfort) were therefore the most frequently mentioned areas for improvement.
The complete evaluation report (in Dutch) can be downloaded here.
Visit the SVG website (Probation Service for Addicted Offenders in the Netherlands) here.