DENVER—Drunk drivers, underage drinking, and Denver’s illustrious position as the country’s “drunkest city”: All these issues have been top-of-mind the last several months. But behind the scenes, the City and County of Denver, along with four other counties throughout the state, are taking a more aggressive approach with alcohol and crime than ever before.
As of July, Denver began a Pilot Program of what many are calling the next-generation in alcohol offender management. SCRAM—or the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor—is an ankle bracelet/modem combination, much like a home arrest system. But instead of monitoring an offender’s location, SCRAM actually samples an offender’s sweat—every hour, 24 hours a day—in order to measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
The product, manufactured and marketed by Highlands Ranch-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, is already being used on DUI, domestic violence, and other alcohol-involved offenders in 21 other states. Boulder, Adams, Larimer and Jefferson counties all began using SCRAM on a limited basis in January, while Denver began their 90-day Pilot Program in July. Denver is testing 20 units on hardcore, repeat DUI offenders who are on probation. The goal, according to AMS CEO Mike Iiams, is to do a better job identifying, tracking, and ultimately deterring the thousands of offenders who clog the courts and put communities at risk. “Forty percent of DUI offenders on probation and in jail have been convicted of drinking and driving before. And estimates indicate those arrested for DUI, on average, have driven drunk as many as 300 times before getting arrested,” says Iiams. In Colorado, of the 28,658 drivers arrested each year for driving drunk, an astounding 77% were considered high-risk, either testing at a BAC level of at least .15, which is twice the legal limit, or having a previous DUI offense.
Beyond drunk driving, SCRAM is seeing widespread application as a tool for other types of offenses, such as domestic violence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 75% of spousal abuse incidents nationwide, the offender was drunk, and 4 in every 10 violent crimes involves alcohol. “We’re addressing offenders who have a drinking problem, period. They’re dangerous, they’re costly, and it’s time for a different solution,” says Iiams. Eric Garcia Gillespie, acting probation services administrator for the City and County of Denver, agrees. “If we can keep them from drinking, then treatment has a far better chance of success,” says Gillespie. The cost of SCRAM ranges from $10 to $12 per day, an expense that generally is the responsibility of the offender.
According to C. West Huddleston, director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), continuous alcohol testing isn’t just a better tool for detecting alcohol consumption once someone’s become a high-risk, habitual offender. It’s actually an invaluable tool when it comes to assessing offenders for alcohol problems after the first offense—before they get in trouble again—as well as serving as a deterrent while they’re on the road to recovery. “The majority of these high-risk offenders are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, and they repeat their offense again and again,” says Huddleston. NDCI is responsible for developing and implementing the newest breed of specialty courts, called DWI Courts, throughout the U.S.
“The ability to test every hour means we can quickly identify those who have an alcohol problem, intervene before they re-offend, and direct them into the appropriate level of supervision and treatment,” says Huddleston.
Denver’s Pilot Program ends in mid-October, and talks are under way to expand and make SCRAM a permanent part of the city’s alcohol offender management program. Larimer, Boulder, Jefferson and Adams counties are currently using SCRAM through Rocky Mountain Offender Management Systems, and independent service provider that delivers probation/deferred sentence supervision, drug and alcohol monitoring, electronic GPSsurveillance and traditional electronic home monitoring for courts throughout the Denver Metro area.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures the world’s only non-invasive alcohol-detection system that automatically tests a subject for alcohol every hour, 24 hours a day, regardless of location. SCRAM® the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor® is currently in use in more than 200 courts in 21 different states and is being used to classifyDUI , domestic violence, and other alcohol-involved offenders and assess their compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.