NEW ORLEANS, LA—When the National Conference of State Legislatures hosts its 2008 Legislative Summit in New Orleans this week, lawmakers from across the U.S. will be taking a look at an emerging trend in the battle against the epidemic of alcohol-triggered crimes: An alcohol-sniffing ankle bracelet that actually monitors offenders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to see if they’ve been drinking.
The technology is known as “Continuous Alcohol Monitoring” (CAM), and more than 1,200 attendees will be on hand to learn more at this week’s conference, running July 22¬-26th at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Already a component of laws in 6 states, legislators are beginning to take a serious look at CAM as an alternative to help manage what experts say is one of the key factors for both recidivism and record prison overcrowding: alcohol addiction.
CAM technology includes a lightweight ankle bracelet that is worn around the clock. Designed specifically for long-term monitoring of alcohol-addicted offenders, the bracelet actually takes a sample of an offender’s perspiration once every 30 minutes, around the clock, in order to detect alcohol consumption. The technology, available since 2003, is currently in use in 46 states, including Louisiana, according to Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), which manufactures and markets the only commercially available CAM system. Known as SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), the company reports that more than 66,000 offenders have been monitored to-date nationwide.
A 2008 study released by Pew Charitable Trusts reports that a record one out of every 100 adults in the U.S. are in jail or prison, an astounding number that’s said to be a direct result of policy choices that incarcerate more offenders, with no resulting decrease in crime rates. And while corrections spending has risen nearly 350 percent in the last 20 years, recidivism rates have remained virtually unchanged.
The role that alcohol plays in the criminal justice problem is well-documented, as well. The U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that more than 40 percent of those in the corrections system were drunk at the time of their conviction offense. While drunk driving is the offense that garners the most attention in the connection between alcohol and crime, domestic violence and other violent crimes see astounding rates of alcohol-involved offenders as well, including three in every four cases of spousal abuse. With record expenditures on corrections that are virtually paralyzing state and local governments, lawmakers are taking a serious look at technology-based tools that can help manage offenders in the community, balancing the need to reduce incarceration rates and maintain public safety.
AMS reports that they are seeing a great deal of CAM activity at the legislative level, where lawmakers are beginning to redefine the problem in an effort to find more effective solutions. “Focusing solely on the crime, or the driving, isn’t sufficient,” says AMS Vice President of Industry Relations Stephen Talpins, a former DUI prosecutor in Miami-Dade, Florida, and a former national policy director for MADD. “The drinking is the issue. And until you can begin to separate the alcohol from the individual, to focus on the core addiction that is driving the violent and repeat behavior, the numbers aren’t going to change.” Delaware, Ohio and Vermont are the most recent states to add CAM language to the books, and legislation is currently pending or in process in New York and New Jersey, among others.
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 99 people across the U.S. and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.