South Dakota Attorney General Among Keynote Speakers, 24/7 Sobriety Programs in the Spotlight
DENVER, CO—Corrections professionals from across the U.S. will be gathering in Denver next week to hear some of the country’s leading criminal justice policymakers tackle a monumental issue: The epidemic rates of alcohol-fueled crime. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long; George Washington University Professor Dr. Eric Goplerud and The Honorable William Dressel, president of the National Judicial College, are among the noted conference speakers.
Sponsored by Littleton-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) and running Monday and Tuesday at the Westin Tabor Center, the conference includes more than 200 criminal justice professionals, including court and probation professionals who deal extensively with alcohol-involved offenders, as well as private service providers who deliver alcohol monitoring and treatment services to jurisdictions throughout the U.S. The conference will focus extensively on the role of emerging technologies that criminal justice programs utilize to support alternative sentencing programs and improve the monitoring and management of offenders sentenced to community supervision.
Long’s address will focus on South Dakota’s award-winning 24/7 Sobriety Project, a program that has monitored more than 10,000 offenders in the state since it first began as a pilot project in 2005. Long designed the program to address what he calls the root cause of the epidemic: the alcohol misuse. To-date, South Dakota has seen a consecutive double digit drop in the state’s prison and jail populations over the last two years, and theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just reported that South Dakota saw an astounding 23 percent drop in the rate of alcohol-related fatalities between 2006 and 2007.
Goplerud is a research professor at The George Washington University in the Department of Health Policy. Currently the director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, he has spent his career working to help craft the nation’s substance abuse policies. Goplerud will speak specifically on the connection between alcohol misuse and cognitive function, and how it leads the millions of offenders convicted each year of alcohol-involved crime into the revolving door of the criminal justice system.
Dressel, a former district court judge in Colorado’s 8th Judicial District and a former law professor at the University of Denver, will share the perspective of the judiciary on the issue of alcohol and crime.
24/7 Sobriety and Emerging Technologies Take Center Stage
The U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nearly 40 percent of those under correctional supervision each year were drunk at the time of their offense, and an astounding three out of four cases of domestic violence involve an offender who was drunk. Drunk driving—the most prominent crime associated with alcohol misuse—accounts for more than 1.4 million arrests and more than 500,000 traffic accidents each and every year, nearly 30 years after drunk driving became a significant public policy issue.
Alcohol monitoring technologies are a key component to the growing trend of alcohol-focused community corrections programs. The South Dakota program is one of the largest state-level programs in the country to employ both breath testing and a high-tech, Continuous Alcohol Monitoring system to monitor and manage their program participants. The system is known asSCRAM ®(Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), and it includes an ankle bracelet, worn 24/7, that actually samples an offender’s perspiration every 30 minutes in order to ensure compliance with mandated sobriety. The 24/7 Sobriety Project, which Long says is designed to work as a supplement to court-mandated treatment, has used SCRAM to monitor more than 800 of the program’s participants to-date.
Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of AMS, which manufactures and markets SCRAM in the U.S., says that shift in focus—to the alcohol misuse—is a trend they’re seeing on a large scale. “For decades DUI laws have focused on punishment and administrative sanctions that focus on limiting driving privileges, but there’s been very little focus on the addiction. And the numbers have remained virtually unchanged,” says Iiams. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, drug courts that focus on the addiction have shown tremendous success at reducing recidivism and saving money, and alcohol-specific programs that apply the same addiction-based approach are showing promising results, as well. “With the shift in focus to managing the addiction, not the car, programs like the one in South Dakota are beginning to show some unprecedented results,” says Iiams.
AMS reports that since the SCRAM System first became available in 2003, they’ve monitored 74,000 offenders and conducted 155 million alcohol tests. In addition to monitoring DWI offenders, SCRAM is also used to monitor domestic violence offenders, juvenile offenders and other populations that are increasingly struggling with alcohol misuse and addiction. To-date, eight states have passed DWI legislation that includes Continuous Alcohol Monitoring language, and bills are pending in several other states for 2008 and 2009.
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.