It's not very often that Glamour and Law Enforcement Technology have much in common, especially when it comes to accessories. However, the latest alcohol detection device for corrections was named on Glamour's Worst of 2007 celebrity accessory list. Given the recent slew of A-listers receiving DUI citations, it's not surprising that celebrities and the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) bracelet have been sharing headlines.
But while celebrities try to steer clear of the SCRAM bracelet, the gadget is topping gotta-have-it lists for supervising authorities nationwide. Current users say it's because the unit has a great deal of potential when it comes to observation and supervision of individuals with alcohol-related offenses. Agencies adopting the booze-sniffing bracelet say it fills a void in offender supervision while simultaneously cutting jail populations and costs.Filling the void
Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), which manufactures and markets SCRAM, saw the need for technology that could better manage and track alcohol usage, specifically for long-term monitoring. While periodic and random drug-testing methods can be effective in detecting drug use, relying on breath, blood and urine testing makes catching drinking a hit-or-miss game. Prior to 2003, alcohol monitoring technology couldn't compete with the body's ability to metabolize and expel alcohol from the system. Staff and budget constraints also did not allow for an increase in personnel and the frequency of testing necessary to capture alcohol in an offender's system.
Bob Murnock, Midwest regional manager for AMS, was introduced to the unit while he was an assistant director for the county court supervision office in western Pennsylvania. Murnock says his jurisdiction saw several positives in SCRAM that could alleviate budget tension due to jail overcrowding and better monitor the alcohol-influenced offender.
"Many counties have had shrinking drug and alcohol treatment dollars," Murnock says. "SCRAM was able to target those DUI offenders, get them out of jail [and] effectively supervise them, actually get them not only on the road to recovery, but on the road to financial responsibility where they had to pay for the program."
Other methods of monitoring alcohol-related offenders — like the ignition interlock system, which requires a breath test in order to start a vehicle — come up short in the bigger picture of the alcohol abuse cycle for supervisors like Michael Smith, who founded and runs Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services Inc. (EMASS), a private probation company in Missouri.
"You may put [offenders] on the interlock and it may deter their behaviors for a short period of time, but it doesn't do anything to combat the problem of drinking," Smith explains. "It may combat the problem of drinking and driving, but then after the term of supervision, what happens with the core problem of drinking?"
The SCRAM system surpasses Breathalyzers by continuously tracking wearers through transdermal monitoring, some correctional authorities say. The bracelet, strapped to the offender's ankle, takes an air sample once every hour to test for alcohol consumption. The bracelet can also recognize the difference between perfumes or colognes and drinking. All data collected by the bracelet is transmitted, once a day, via AMS's modem placed in the wearer's home, to the Colorado-based company's SCRAMNet data center, and then relayed, next day, to the designated supervising authorities. The automated process requires no labor on the agency's part to administer tests, saving personnel time and expense. Typically, Smith says, there are three referral sources for SCRAM to his private probation business. Referrals from the court to EMASS include drunken driving offenders; domestic violence offenders where alcohol is a contributing factor; and from family court, either to enforce a parent's sobriety or to assess an alcohol problem. Additionally, SCRAM has been used for underage drinking and drug court offenders, who may turn to alcohol while being tested for other drugs.