AUSTIN—When the American Probation and Parole Association hosts its Winter Conference in Austin next week, one group of judges and probation officers will be wearing the newest fashion in electronic offender monitoring: An ankle bracelet that actually tests an offender’s perspiration to see if they’ve been drinking.
The product, called the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, is an alcohol ankle bracelet that uses transdermal analysis—as often as every 30 minutes—in order to determine whether DUI, domestic violence, or other alcohol-involved offenders have been drinking. On exhibit next week at the APPA Winter Training Institute, running January 8-10 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, SCRAM will be worn by judges and probations officers, who will do live subject testing of the SCRAM Bracelet throughout the conference. “Once you see it, you believe it,” says Don White, vice president of field operations for Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS). “It’s absolutely the best way for someone to understand how this product works, and just how valuable of a tool it can be in an alcohol program.” According to White, volunteers will wear the product for several hours and often overnight, either drinking to test the product’s accuracy, or trying to tamper with it to see how sensitive the high-tech system really is.
SCRAM in Texas – Is It Big Brother?
Already in use in 34 states, including 16 counties in Texas, the product is being used as a tool for monitoring and evaluating problem drinkers, who clog the courts with DUI, domestic violence and other alcohol-triggered crimes. But corrections professionals caution that it’s about balancing community safety with community-based initiatives that are aimed at rehabilitating problem drinkers, versus just incarcerating them. “Studies show that by the time someone is arrested for a DUI, they’ve driven drunk an average of 300 times,” says Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of AMS. “It’s not the first time they’ve driven drunk, it’s just the first time they’ve been caught. Clearly, there’s an alcohol problem.” Industry analysts agree. “The repeat offender problem is an alcohol problem, pure and simple. Until the alcohol problem is addressed, the cycle of repeat offenders will continue to plague our courts—and our communities,” says Danny Mills, president of Alcohol Monitoring Programs of South Texas, the organization managing the SCRAM Program for Bexar, Travis, Brazos and Williamson counties. Mills’ company, which just began delivering SCRAM to the region last summer, currently manages nearly 80 offenders in south Texas, and they anticipate rapid adoption of the product over the next 12 to 18 months.
So is it Big Brother? “Absolutely not,” chuckles Iiams. “This is an alternative to incarceration. This keeps these offenders with their families, it keeps them at home, it lets them keep their jobs. Big Brother was trying to keep tabs on everyone. SCRAM is a tool for people who have committed some pretty serious crimes—usually more than once,” he says. According to the US Department of Justice, repeat offenders account for one-third of all DWIarrests each year, and 75 percent of all cases of spousal abuse were triggered by, or involved, alcohol.
The SCRAM System
The SCRAM System includes an ankle bracelet/modem combination, similar to a home arrest system. But instead of monitoring an offender’s location, the ankle bracelet measures for alcohol consumption. At least once each day, the offender is required to be within 30 feet of a modem, placed in their home or at their place of work. The bracelet uploads the test data to the modem, which in turn sends the results to SCRAMNET, a web-based server hosted by AMS.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures the world’s only noninvasive alcohol-detection system that automatically tests for alcohol every hour, 24 hours a day, regardless of the individual’s location.SCRAM (the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) is the first alcohol testing technology to use Transdermal Analysis to determine whether a client has been consuming alcohol. SCRAM fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing community corrections agencies and treatment organizations nationwide with the ability to classify offenders and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems employs 40 people across the U.S. and is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.