LAGUNA HILLS—With Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget team predicting closures for several prisons in response to state budget overruns, one Orange County company is poised to deliver a breakthrough technology that may alleviate the burden of thousands of the state’s DUI and other alcohol-triggered offenders.
Diversified Monitoring Services (DMS), which provides comprehensive treatment and continuous monitoring services for the state’s alcohol and drug offenders, is now offering what many industry analysts are calling the best alcohol-testing tool to hit the corrections market in more than a decade, potentially saving the state millions of dollars each year. The timing couldn’t be better.
Designed specifically for application in long-term alcohol monitoring programs where abstinence is required, the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol MonitorÔ—or SCRAMÔ—includes a bracelet/modem combination like a home arrest system. But instead of monitoring location, the bracelet samples an offender’s sweat—at least 24 times per day—in order to test for alcohol consumption. According to Patricia Verwiel, MA, president and founder of DMS, this type of system gives the state an unprecedented level of assessment and accountability when dealing with DWI offenders. “Hook ’em and book ’em is no longer an effective way for the criminal justice system to look at the problem,” says Verwiel, a 20-year veteran of both treatment and electronic monitoring programs. “We have to target the behavior—change the behavior—in order to prevent relapse into further criminal activity.” Statistics from the California Department of Corrections seem to underscore that point. Of the convicted DUI offenders paroled from prison each year, more than 25 percent re-offend within one year after being paroled; an additional 38 percent re-offend in year two. “It’s a cycle that isn’t just costly for the state in terms of money—it’s high-risk for the community, as well,” says Don White, vice president of field operations for Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which developed and markets the SCRAM System. “Recidivism rates are astounding, and nothing to-date has made a dent in that problem.”
Verwiel and her partner, Michael McCord, LMFT developed the programs atDMS to focus on changing behavior and ultimately reducing the burden on society from repeat drug and alcohol offenders. But in Orange County, and conceivably throughout the state, the most immediate savings are being seen while offenders are still in treatment¾because DMS programs, including SCRAM, are completely offender-funded. “Recidivism rates, prison overcrowding, and the increasing cost of incarcerating nonviolent offenders mean we need to provide cost-effective alternatives in the short-term while also focusing on reducing repeat offenses on the long-term,” says Verwiel. California currently spends an average of $28,439 to house each inmate each year. In 2003, California had 2,096 offenders incarcerated for DUI. “The savings from placing just those DUI offenders on SCRAM would top $60 million each year,” says White, with the added benefit of monitoring those offenders as they learn to live their lives alcohol-free in the community. “SCRAM provides the highest level of accountability, but it also lets them hold down jobs, go to counseling, support their families—all things that have proven to be effective in supporting good treatment outcomes,” says Verwiel.
While the last decade has seen improvements in drug testing, alcohol—generally considered the number-one substance abuse problem in America—has remained an elusive challenge. Unlike most drugs, alcohol metabolizes very quickly, so conventional alcohol testing programs such as breath, blood and urine testing are only effective at catching violators during a very narrow window of time. “We needed to find a way to minimize the resources required for testing and supervision while maximizing accuracy and accountability,” says White. Verwiel says they’ve done just that. “Alcohol treatment without SCRAM—without 24-hour-a-day data to support assessment, detection and deterrence—just will not work. We needed accountability to support comprehensive treatment. Now, we have that.”
AMS reports that many agencies have expanded their use of SCRAM beyond a prison alternative. Some are using the system pre-trial to help adequately assess an offender’s alcohol problem prior to determining the best program for them. Others use SCRAM for varying durations to support treatment and education during probation. In addition, White says that many agencies are expanding their use of the system to non-DUI offenders, or those who committed crimes such as domestic violence and were under the influence at the time of their offense. As the technology continues to prove itself, the company is seeing rapid adoption throughout the country.
SCRAM is currently in use in over 100 cities and counties nationwide, including courts in Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Orange County, California. Since its launch in April of 2003,SCRAM has completed more than 2.75 million tests on over 2,200 offenders.
DMS was an early adopter of SCRAM, offering the system on a limited basis in Orange County since June of 2003. According to White, the selection ofDMS as a partner for one of the largest counties in the country was quite intentional. “We chose Diversified because they have proven success with comprehensive treatment programs and because their knowledge and experience in the California market make them uniquely qualified to deliver and support our system.” DMS has provided SCRAM to over 250 court referrals since April of 2003, with each offender serving varying amounts of time. White says they are uniquely positioned to absorb the alcohol offenders the state may release to alternative sentencing in the coming months. “SCRAM isn’t just a new way to do something—it’s an entirely new way to manage these alcohol offenders,” says White.
About Diversified Monitoring Services, LLC
Diversified Monitoring Services, headquartered in Laguna Hills, California, was established in 2003 to deliver treatment and monitoring for substance abuse offenders in the criminal justice community. The staff includes more than 25 state-certified and county-approved counselors and treatment specialists. DMS currently has locations in Laguna Hills, Anaheim, Westminster, Santa Ana, San Clemente and Costa Mesa.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures the world’s only non-invasive alcohol-detection system that automatically tests for alcohol every hour, 24 hours a day, regardless of the offender’s location. SCRAM—the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor—is the first alcohol testing technology to use transdermal analysis to determine an offender’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 DUI offenders and assess compliance with sentencing requirements, and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.