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Northern Virginia Courts Using Technology to Fill Gaps Left by Budget Crisis

Media Type: Press Release

24/7 Alcohol Anklets Keep Tabs on Offenders, Save Counties Millions

LEESBURG, VA—In the midst of a statewide budget crisis for corrections officials, courts in Loudoun, Rappahannock, Hanover, Fluvanna, Henrico and Orange counties in Northern Virginia are integrating a cost-saving tool that officials say has improved offender supervision while saving counties significant resources.

The system is known as SCRAM (for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), and it includes a high-tech ankle bracelet that actually monitors an offender’s perspiration every 30 minutes, 24/7, in order to detect alcohol consumption. Used predominantly to manage DUI and domestic violence offenders, Virginia courts have expanded their usage to include juvenile, family and drug court offenders. At an average cost of $12 per day, which is paid for by the offenders, the annual savings for corrections agencies is expected to be in the millions. “The daily cost of incarceration is as high as $110 a day in Fairfax County alone,” says Alex Reid, president of Virginia Alcohol Monitoring, which manages the SCRAM program throughout Northern Virginia. “By necessity, corrections officials are looking for cost-effective alternatives to jail. What they’re finding is that, ultimately, these high-tech solutions are not just saving money, they’re improving the accountability and long-term outcomes of the alcohol-addicted offenders that they monitor,” says Reid.

Don White, chief operating officer of Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), which manufactures and markets the SCRAM technology nationwide, agrees. “For alcohol-addicted offenders, the issue isn’t a criminal issue, it’s an addiction issue,” says White. “When you effectively remove alcohol from the equation, not only are you providing better supervision in the community, you’re giving these individuals an opportunity to change their behavior.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 40 percent of those convicted each year of a DUI are repeat offenders. The SCRAM System has monitored 85,000 offenders in 46 states since it first became available in 2003.

According to Reid, the state’s current budget crisis has prompted rapid adoption of the technology, and he anticipates continued growth in 2009. “The financial reality that these jurisdictions are facing is prompting them to look at and adopt new solutions,” says Reid. “The technology has a proven track record of improving supervision and supporting treatment-based programs that are designed to stop the cycle of alcohol abuse and recidivism. It’s a win-win for the entire system.” For offenders who qualify, VAM provides a sliding scale program and an indigent fund for those who qualify, which also helps courts manage the issue of affordability. “Any client referred to us forSCRAM monitoring will be monitored,” says Reid.

Alcohol and Crime: The Virginia Picture

According to The Century Council, which publishes drunken driving arrest and conviction data, there are more than 25,000 DUI arrests each year in Virginia. Following conviction, all offenders receive a mandatory alcohol assessment/evaluation to determine the nature and extent of their addiction. Treatment is mandatory for high BAC and repeat offenders, and all offenders are required to attend alcohol education or treatment as recommended by the assessment. Beyond DUI, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 40 percent of all offenders convicted of violent crimes are drunk at the time of their offense, and alcohol is involved in three out of every four cases of domestic violence. “The number of alcohol-involved offenders clogging the system is staggering,” says Reid. “Bottom line, when you’re able to continuously monitor and manage the alcohol issue, you’re not only saving taxpayers, you’re changing lives.”

About Virginia Alcohol Monitoring
Established in 2008, Virginia Alcohol Monitoring (VAM) provides technology-based solutions to the criminal justice system. VAM is the exclusive provider of SCRAM technology in Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Hanover and Henrico counties. Headquartered in Leesburg, VAM has satellite offices in Fairfax and Richmond, Virginia.

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 107 people across the U.S. and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.