DENVER—Despite the best efforts of special interest groups, government-funded campaigns, and local law enforcement, DUI arrest and alcohol-related traffic fatality rates remain alarmingly high. But one Colorado-based company has been working tirelessly to develop a high-tech solution to the DUI epidemic, redefining the way the corrections system monitors multiple-DUI offenders. And after just nine months on the market, judges across the country are taking notice.
Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) has released their 2003 year-end statistics for SCRAM™—the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor™—and their numbers tell a story that’s getting a lot of attention from judges and corrections professionals. SCRAM is the first alcohol testing system that can test subjects every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the first year on the market, SCRAM’s 24-hour testing protocol completed 1.24 million alcohol tests on close to 1,000 offenders in dozens of jurisdictions across the country.
The alcohol testing market has seen a spate of new products over the last decade, namely ignition interlock devices and home-arrest monitoring systems that incorporate a breath alcohol component for DUI offenders. To compare, during a 90-day period—the average amount of time an offender is sentenced to alcohol monitoring—SCRAM would test a subject 24 times each day for a total of 2,160 tests. But with a home-based alcohol testing system, even in a best-case scenario, a high-risk offender would complete three alcohol breath tests per day, for a total of only 270 tests during the same period of time. “And that’s a pretty generous estimate,” says Mike Iiams, AMSchairman and CEO. “A few jurisdictions may very well test some high-risk offenders that frequently, but many programs do no testing at all—because up until now, long-term alcohol monitoring programs just didn’t work.”
SCRAM applies the science of Transdermal Testing to determine a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). SCRAM measures insensible perspiration, which is the constant, unnoticeable excretion of sweat through the skin. When alcohol is consumed, ethanol migrates through the skin and is excreted in the insensible perspiration.
For DUI offenders sentenced to abstain from alcohol and required to participate in some form of regular testing—as more than 500,000 are each year, according to the US Department of Justice—SCRAM’s unique testing method is filling the void that many believe contributes to the stagnant DUIrates and the startling number of repeat DUI offenders in the U.S. each year. “SCRAM is generating a lot of interest in the criminal justice community because it is a unique product in terms of its technical capabilities,” says Joe Russo, program manager for the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, a program of the National Institute of Justice. “More importantly, the appropriate application of this technology will provide a powerful and much-needed tool to better manage DUI and other alcohol-related offenders in the community.”
That need, according to Jon Ugval, director of operations for Michigan-based House Arrest Services, is to be able to accurately monitor DUI offenders for alcohol abstinence for an extended period of time. An electronic monitoring service provider that offers a variety of testing and monitoring solutions to jurisdictions throughout Michigan and 11 other states, House Arrest Services participated in BETA tests of SCRAM in 2002 and became Alcohol Monitoring Systems’ first client when the product went on the market in March 2003. Throughout 2003, House Arrest Services monitored over 500 individual offenders using SCRAM and completed more than 700,000 alcohol tests. Ugval says they’ve already seen a shift in both the accuracy of the process and the attitudes of the offenders since incorporating SCRAM into their service offerings. “Now we know, around the clock, whether they’re in compliance. And the mere fact that clients are aware that we know already seems to be altering their behavior.”
AMS agrees, citing feedback from both customers and offenders around the country who are currently using SCRAM. “SCRAM’s focus is it to catch 100 percent of the drinking violations, period,” says Iiams. “Once an offender realizes that SCRAM is different—that it really is working—they’re no longer trying to get away with drinking, they’re just not drinking.”
In addition to frequent testing, which ensures an offender can’t manipulate a loophole in the testing schedule, the ability to test subjects whether they’re at work, counseling, in the car or at home, is one of the key factors that seems to have the industry’s attention. “We built SCRAM to be an automated system,” says Iiams, “With the goal of minimizing the staff resources required to manage the program, while maximizing a client’s ability to live their life-to go to work, to counseling, to probation meetings, to family functions-all the things that increase their chances of recovery and decrease the likelihood of re-offending.” Ugval says that flexibility is one of the most impressive features of the SCRAM System. “Now our clients can travel for work, or attend a family wedding or funeral out-of-state-things that are important, but that they never could have done before. Yet we still will know, around-the-clock, whether they’re in compliance. That’s a very important difference.”
Strictly an R&D company from 1997 until last year, Denver-based AMS did a controlled launch of SCRAM in select jurisdictions across the country in March of 2003, and they report that market acceptance of SCRAM has been rapid. “One of the biggest mistakes a new technology company can make is being unprepared for market acceptance and rapid growth. We took our time in the R&D phase of this product and conducted extensive BETA tests, because we simply were not willing to risk product quality. We went in prepared, and that dedication to product performance is paying off,” says Iiams. Ugval agrees. As of February, his company has more than 200 units installed on offenders, with plans to expand to 2,000 offenders in 2004. “This isn’t just a better way to deal with the DUI problem, it’s an entirely new way to deal with the problem. And it’s working.”
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures the world’s only non-invasive alcohol-detection system that automatically tests for alcohol every hour, 24 hours a day, regardless of the offender’s location.SCRAM-the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor-is the first alcohol testing technology to use transdermal analysis to determine an offender’s blood alcohol content. SCRAM fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing community corrections agencies and treatment organizations nationwide with the ability to classify DUI offenders and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.