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Judges Looking to Technologies to Reduce Jail Stays, Cut Costs in Underfunded Courts

Media Type: Press Release

Growing Success of State’s Drug Courts Takes Center Stage at Michigan Conference

LANSING, MI—When the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals (MADCP) hosts its annual conference in Lansing this week, 500 judges and drug court professionals from around the state will be aggressively looking at cost-effective technologies in an effort to meet the rapidly growing crisis in the state’s budget and corrections system.

Predominantly used to monitor repeat DUI offenders, drug courts are looking to expand use of 24/7 alcohol monitoring bracelets, including use on other offender populations. Employed by both Michigan’s drug courts and the Michigan Department of Correction, the technology is known as SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor). The system includes an ankle monitor, worn 24/7, that actually samples a subject’s perspiration every 30 minutes in order to measure for any alcohol consumption. Michigan was the first state in the country to utilize the SCRAM System when it became available in 2003, and today nearly 18,000 offenders have been monitored with the system throughout the state.

Nearly 40 percent of the offender population is using alcohol at the time of their offense, and Michigan jails are averaging $55 per day per offender, while the state’s prisons are averaging $90 per day per offender. TheSCRAM System will be on exhibit this week at the MADCP Conference, running February 2nd and 3rd at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. “Drug Courts, along with the Department of Corrections, are looking to mitigate costs, overcrowding and recidivism issues,” says Dick Irrer, midwest regional manager for Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), makers of the SCRAM System. “Three out of every four cases of domestic violence involves an intoxicated offender, and crimes such as burglary and assault also have a disproportionate number of offenses that are alcohol-fueled,” says Irrer, formerly the director of Michigan’s Electronic Monitoring Program. According to Irrer the SCRAM System costs an average of $12 a day, and many programs are offender-pay, where the offenders are paying for all or a significant portion of the daily fee. “If just one small county monitors 50 alcohol fueled offenders at a time, even if the county pays for the monitoring, the savings is nearly $775,000 a year compared to jail,” says Irrer. According to a 2009 report by the Pew Center on the States, Michigan’s state prisons average $89 a day, which equals the costs of 15 days on probation or parole. One in every 27 adults in the state is under correctional supervision.

Both Eaton and Ingham counties have utilized SCRAM monitoring on DUI offenders since 2004. According to Stephen K. Talpins with the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime (NPAMC) and vice president of Industry Relations for AMS, the state’s budget crisis is inspiring judges to increase use of monitoring technologies in an effort to balance community safety with the exorbitant costs of dealing with repeat, alcohol-fueled offenders. “Effective, 24/7 alcohol monitoring in lieu of incarceration not only can provide short-term financial relief by effectively monitoring these offenders for alcohol, but it can have a long-term impact on their recidivism,” he says. Talpins, the former national policy director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and a former DUI prosecutor for the Miami-Dade states attorney’s office, says that drug courts are proliferating because they deal with the key contributing cause of the criminal behavior: the alcohol abuse or addiction. “If you can keep them sober while they go through the program, your chances for long-term success are substantially better,” he says. Talpins will be presenting to the state’s drug court judges at the MADCP Conference.

Nationwide, SCRAM has monitored 124,000 offenders in 48 states. In March of this year, AMS will launch the next generation of the technology, called SCRAMx. SCRAMx will add optional house arrest functionality to their continuous alcohol testing protocol. The first dual-function system of its kind, the technology is known as “iCAM” for Intensive Continuous Alcohol Monitoring. Both systems will be available in a single anklet, and AMSanticipates that as much as 20 percent of their offenders will be monitored using both continuous alcohol monitoring and house arrest.

About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures SCRAM®, the world’s only Continuous Alcohol Monitoring system, which uses non-invasive transdermal analysis to monitor alcohol consumption.SCRAM fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing courts and community corrections agencies with the ability to continuously monitor alcohol offenders, increase offender accountability and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems employs 105 people across the U.S. and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.