CHAPEL HILL—With nationally-recognized programs for drug and DWI offenders and well-publicized campaigns like Booze It or Lose It, North Carolina is often cited as a leader when it comes to clamping down on dangerous and costly drug and alcohol offenders. But now Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner is introducing law enforcement, corrections, treatment and even social services agencies to what he’s calling “the best thing to hit the state since electricity” when it comes to dealing with the problem of alcohol in the criminal justice system.
Corrections industry analysts are describing the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor¾or SCRAM¾as the next generation in electronic monitoring and alcohol testing, designed to help agencies keep tabs on alcohol offenders 24 hours a day. The Symposium, scheduled for August 25th in Chapel Hill, was the idea of Judge Buckner, who first learned of the product at a conference in June. The system includes a bracelet/modem combination, much like a home arrest monitoring system. But instead of monitoring an offender’s location, SCRAM actually tests an offender’s sweat—every hour, every day—in order to determine whether they’ve consumed alcohol.
The benefit, according to Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which manufactures and markets the SCRAM System, is that SCRAM goes where the offender goes, tests automatically instead of requiring the offender to report for a breath or urine test, and does it every single hour to ensure a drinking event doesn’t go undetected. “Unlike drugs, alcohol is metabolized very quickly, and that makes it very difficult to detect alcohol consumption in a random alcohol testing program,” says Iiams. “For the first time, if an offender drinks, we know it. Period. That’s an invaluable tool when it comes to helping law enforcement keep tabs on offenders and keeping the community safe.”
“This is the most important technology I have seen in my 10 years as a judge,” said Judge Buckner, chief district judge in Chatham and Orange counties, in his invitation to officials around the state to attend the Symposium, which includes four Learning Sessions about the product. North Carolina processes approximately 84,000 drunk drivers through their judicial system each year, 34,000 of which are high-risk, repeat offenders or were arrested for driving at BAC levels of .15 or above—nearly twice the state’s legal limit. In addition, 4 out of every 10 violent offenses and domestic violence offenses involve an offender who is drunk at the time of their offense. According to West Huddleston, director of the National Drug Court Institute, continuous alcohol testing isn’t just a better tool for detecting alcohol consumption while they’re in the system, It’s actually an invaluable tool when it comes to assessing offenders for alcohol problem¾before they get in trouble again¾as well as serving as a deterrent on the road to recovery. “The majority of these high-risk offenders are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, and they repeat their offense again and again. The ability to test them every hour means we can quickly identify those who have an alcohol problem, intervene before they re-offend, and ultimately help deter them from drinking while they’re on the road to recovery,” says Huddleston.
But Judge Buckner intends to reach more than the DWI market with his message, emphasizing the need to go a step further than the state’s rigorous programs like Booze It and Lose It’s effective roadside sobriety checkpoints. “I see an application for continuous alcohol monitoring in most areas of court business—domestic violence cases, abuse and neglect of children, child support, juvenile delinquency, even civil mental health cases and substance abuse commitment—we can’t just keep processing them through the system. We have to change their behavior. If they’re not drinking, they’re not drinking and driving. And they’re likely not abusing their spouses, or drinking away their child support payments. Alcohol in the judicial system is an epidemic, and this tool is exactly what we need to address that epidemic.”
Since SCRAM hit the market in June of 2003, the system has monitored more than 3,300 DWI, domestic violence and other offenders in 22 states. In North Carolina, Mecklenburg County has just received initial funding to acquire 10 SCRAM units for their DWI Treatment Court.
In addition to the Symposium, representatives from Alcohol Monitoring Systems have been invited to present at the September 9th meeting for the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. The 44-member Commission, which includes Governor Mike Easley, administers the state’s criminal justice and juvenile justice federal block grants awarded to the state of North Carolina.
About the Symposium
The Symposium includes four Learning Sessions at different times throughout the day. The symposium will take place August 25th in the Chapel Hill Courthouse, 179 E. Franklin Street, with sessions at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m., followed by a question and answer session with Judge Buckner and representatives of 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 an individual’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 DWI offenders and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.