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Program Profile: San Juan County (N.M.) DWI First Offenders Program–Victim Impact Panels

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

Date: This profile was posted on March 13, 2017

Program Summary

The program is a component of the San Juan County (N.M.) DWI First Offenders Program, which was designed to reduce driving while intoxicated (DWI) recidivism, alcohol consumption, and drinking and driving behavior by exposing offenders to testimonials from victims of drunk-driving accidents. The program is rated No Effects. No significant differences were found between VIP and no-VIP program participants on DWI recidivism over 2 years, and on various measures of drinking.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Victim Impact Panels (VIPs) are part of the San Juan County (N.M.) DWI First Offenders Program. The program is designed to reduce DWI recidivism as well as drinking and driving behavior among first-time offenders by exposing them to testimonials from victims of drunk-driving accidents. The goal of a VIP is to help offenders realize they could have injured or killed another individual when they were drinking and driving.
VIPs were added to the broader treatment component of the San Juan County DWI First Offenders (SJC-DWI) Program in June 1996. San Juan County is largely rural and includes part of the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache Reservations. It includes some larger communities such as Farmington, the county seat, and Shiprock, which is on the Navajo Reservation.
Target Population/Eligibility
Participants are first-time DWI offenders who are court-ordered to attend the program. All participants are required to participate in the VIPs.
Program Activities
The VIPs occur within the context of the 28-day SJC-DWI Program. First-time offenders are incarcerated in a minimum-security facility for 28 days. The SJC-DWI VIPs are adapted from the VIPs developed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In addition to the information provided during the MADD-VIPs (which usually include stories of loss), the SJC-DWI VIPs are designed to raise participants’ awareness of their ability to make the conscious choice to not drink and drive.
The SJC-DWI VIP audience usually comprises around 35 participants, compared with MADD-VIP audiences that may include hundreds of participants at one time. The panels are held in the same courtroom where the participants were arrested, convicted, sentenced, and fined for DWI.
The SJC-DWI VIPs usually include a Navajo man who is paraplegic, as the presenter, and a reformed DWI offender. The panelists are often known personally to the participants and may even be relatives. Some are Navajo/Diné and speak in both English and Diné. The panels typically include both victims and individuals who are victims of their own drunk driving, but have since stopped drinking and driving.
After the VIP, the participants complete an anonymous comment sheet about what they have seen and heard. They then return to the detention center where they engage in small-group discussions about their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with drunk driving and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. The discussion also includes their current loss of freedom, the economic impact of their arrest and conviction, and the loss in personal standing that they may experience for having committed a DWI. The participants continue to talk about the panels during the rest of their stay in the 28-day program; they are required to write about the VIPs in their journals and talk about them during their counseling sessions.
Program Theory
VIPs are designed to be cost-effective supplements to conventional sanctions such as DWI schools, fines, driving license restrictions, or community service. VIPs place participants in face-to-face communication with people whose lives have been permanently changed by the behavior of a person who chose to drink and drive. While attempting to avoid placing blame, the panel presenters highlight the consequences and responsibility of DWI offenders. The hope is that this will influence the participants to take responsibility for their actions and stop drinking and driving.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Overall, Wheeler and colleagues (2004) found no significant differences between the Victim Impact Panels (VIP) and no-VIP comparison groups on recidivism (i.e., DWI arrest) after 2 years; there were also no differences on drinking and driving behavior between the VIP and no-VIP groups at 2-month follow up. 
Recidivism (DWI Arrest)
No significant differences were found between the VIP and comparison groups on subsequent DWI arrest for a 2-year period after release from the program. 
Drinking in the Prior 60 Days
No significant differences were found between the VIP and comparison groups on drinking in the past 60 days. 
Days with Five or More Drinks
No significant differences were found between the VIP and comparison groups on number of days with five or more drinks in the past 60 days.
Driving After Five or More Drinks
No significant differences were found between the VIP and comparison groups on driving after drinking five or more drinks in the past 60 days.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Wheeler and colleagues (2004) used a randomized factorial design to evaluate the efficacy of the Victim Impact Panel (VIP) component of the San Juan County (N.M.) DWI First Offenders Program (SJC-DWI). All participants were court-defined, first-time DWI offenders from a rural county that includes portions of two Native American reservations. As part of the broader program, the participants live in a minimum security jail setting with restricted movement and contact for 28 days.
The participants were randomly assigned to either 1) the treatment group (n=56), which received the standard SJC-DWI program and attended the VIP; or 2) the control group (n=43), which received the standard program, but did not attend the VIP. A total of 13 participants in the no-VIP group, who reported attendance at a VIP (e.g., for a previous DWI offense), were censored. Both groups were assessed at pretest, posttest (i.e., just prior to release), and at 2 months following completion of the program. Because of the low response rates at posttest, the study authors used only the 2-month follow-up data for analysis.
The participants were mostly male (68 percent) and Native American (54 percent). Of the other participants, 30 percent were non-Hispanic white, 11 percent were Hispanic, and 5 percent were African American. In regard to prior DWI arrests, a total of 63 percent had one prior DWI arrest, 18 percent had two, 18 percent had 3, and 2 percent had no prior DWI arrests.
The VIP and no-VIP groups were compared on characteristics that included age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, and prior and subsequent DWI arrests. Results of the chi-square analysis indicated no significant difference between the groups at baseline (African Americans could not be included in this analysis because of the small number of participants: there were only five across both VIP and no-VIP groups).
Trained staff of the SJC-DWI program administered the assessment measures on site; however, at 2 months, a follow-up questionnaire was mailed to all participants. Intake measures gathered information on demographics, quantity/frequency of alcohol use, and driving following drinking. The 2-month follow-up questionnaires (completed by 83 percent of participants), assessed quantity/frequency of alcohol use, driving following drinking, and questions regarding attendance at VIPs. Official driving records kept by the New Mexico Department of Traffic Safety were used to assess arrest.
A MANOVA was used to address whether there was a difference in drinking and driving behavior (i.e., drinking in the prior 60 days, days with five or more drinks, driving after five or more drinks) between the VIP and no-VIP groups. Follow-up chi-square analyses were also conducted with each of the 2-month outcomes. Finally, a chi-square analysis was conducted to assess the 2-year DWI recidivism rate for VIP and no-VIP participants.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Other Information

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This is an evaluation of the Victim Impact Panels component of the larger San Juan County (N.M.) DWI prevention program for court-defined, first-time offenders. The broader program is rated Promising on
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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
Wheeler, Denise R., Everett M. Rogers, J. Scott Tonigan, and W.G. Woodall 2004. “Effectiveness of Customized Victim Impact Panels on First-Time DWI Offender Inmates.” Accident Analysis and Prevention, 36, 29–35.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Hispanic, White

Geography: Rural, Tribal

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Reservation

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

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

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center