From Hollywood's 'not' list to corrections' 'hot' list

     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...


     Marion County, Indiana's corrections system, has had positive results from the bracelet, which it's used for more than four years. Brian Barton, executive director of Marion County Community Corrections, says he's seen the bracelet change offenders. Behavior can adjust, he says, because the offenders in the program realize they're being closely watched.

     "We use SCRAM to get at the behavior that got them into the criminal justice system," Barton says. "If they're on SCRAM, they're allowed to go about their normal day-to-day life … that's the kind of thing that SCRAM offers somebody — that constant reminder [that one] is looking over your shoulder."

     The SCRAM unit is also unique in its ability to not only monitor alcohol intake around the clock, but in its abilities to determine if it's been tampered with. Murnock says that over the years he's been overseeing SCRAM programs, he's encountered numerous attempts to outsmart the booze-busting accessory.

     "We've had Saran wrap to orange peels; you name it, people have tried it to defeat the machine," Murnock says. "I will say not our device, nor any device, is 100-percent foolproof. But we've been very effective in catching violations and tampers."

     Murnock describes the infrared and temperature-testing technology behind the tamper system. An IR sensor shoots a beam to the leg and back again, which catches obstructions. Should a wearer place something between the leg and the bracelet, the IR sensor changes and the reading reflects the size, thickness and color of the obstruction. The bracelet also tests the temperature of the face plate, which gives an indication if it has been altered or if something has been placed between the bracelet and the leg.

Legally sound, so far

     SCRAM, on the market since 2003, has encountered several evidentiary hearings. The bracelet's testing results have been entered as evidence against individuals and endured legal challenges in 10 states, with each finding that the technological evidence is sound, according to AMS.

     By and large, Smith, who worked as a state probation officer for 17 years, says he has seen a wide acceptance of the SCRAM unit in the criminal justice system in his jurisdiction. EMASS, which works with the criminal justice system throughout Missouri to regulate offenders, has been using SCRAM for four years. Those two facts together — the prolonged use by EMASS as well as the connection to the legal system — show the Missouri system's acceptance of the technology Smith backs up.

     In addition to its legally sound value, departments, such as Murnock's former Pennsylvania jurisdiction and Barton's Marion County jail, found using the device financially beneficial. Because the wearer absorbs the cost and pays for the program directly, jail expenses are, in turn, reduced. AMS reports the program, on average, costs approximately $12 per person, per day.

     "Those were people that otherwise may have been housed in the county jail at a rate of around $50 a day," Murnock says. "We realized an immediate cost savings by getting those people out and then monitoring them. In the long run, they would pay for the program themselves."

     The offender-pay model includes daily monitoring fees; however, facilities have the option to purchase or lease the bracelet and modem, which is the jurisdiction's investment. AMS reports that costs above and beyond what an offender can pay could be subsidized by government funding.

The 411 on SCRAM II

     In February, AMS revealed a smaller, sleeker version of the device, much improving the wearability and comfort for monitees. Though the technology hasn't changed, the new unit, named SCRAM II, is far more comfortable to wear and far more user friendly, Smith and Murnock say. In addition to decreasing bulk and halving the weight of the original, the strap and battery — which previously required specialized servicing — can be replaced or repaired in the field. The company will be replacing first-generation SCRAM units with SCRAM II at no cost beginning in April, according to AMS.

Trickle-down theory
  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.