By BRAD SALMEN, Gazette Writer and The Associated Press
PONTIAC, Mich. - Some Michigan courts are using a device that is worn on the ankle and measures blood alcohol content 24 hours a day as part of probation for people with alcohol-related offenses.
Called the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, the ankle bracelet is similar to a home arrest system. But instead of monitoring the wearer's location, the bracelet, made by Colorado-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc., tests sweat at least once every hour to determine blood alcohol levels.
"I think it's great,'' Johanna Golden, a district court probation officer in Troy, where the ankle bracelet known as SCRAM has been in use for four months, told The Daily Oakland Press for a Monday story.
Houghton County Circuit Court Probation Agent Tom Michaels agreed, saying the current method of breath-testing is ineffective.
"Breath tests are not going to catch a lot of people unless they're hardcore drinkers," Michaels said. "Most people know that the alcohol dissipates in the blood (by the time they are tested). If they stop drinking at 12 or 2 (a.m.), it's usually out of their system by the time they test at 8 a.m., unless they drink a lot."
Michaels said the way most probation violators are nabbed is if they get into a bar fight, or somebody calls them in.
"That system they're piloting is terrific," he said. "In my opinion, that's the only way to keep (offenders) from drinking."
Last month, the company announced that the Michigan Department of Corrections had formally launched a new 24-hour-a-day alcohol testing program to keep tabs on drunken driving and other alcohol offenders.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall.
My friend was on a SCRAM before he went in. It was pretty wild. It would vibrate once every hour when it took a reading of the alcohol on his skin. Then, once a day, he would have to sit by a modem which took the day's readings and transmitted them to the office. It kept him from drinking, that's for sure. But they are VERY sensitive. He couldn't use mouthwash, cough medicine, cologne, even some toothpastes could set it off. Plus it kept messing up. He would sit by the modem for hours at a time (his time was 2:00 am, and he had to be there for 20 minutes before his time, until the readings were done) and the modem wouldn't kick in. All in all, it seemed like a good idea, but it has some quirks that need to be worked out. It costs $12 a day too.
The Secure Continous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, is an ankle bracelet that measures a person's blood-alcohol level hourly.
After three incidents of drunken driving and seven months in jail, Jaime was required to wear a tether monitoring his location and submit to random blood-alcohol tests. "It helped me to break those patterns of being out more and wanting to go the bars," said Jaime, a 2003 MSU graduate who was referred to The State News by Alcoholics Anonymous of Lansing. "It's kind of like being grounded."
Michigan courts are now moving to a newer tether system - an ankle bracelet that measures a person's blood-alcohol level at least every hour all day. In July, the Michigan Department of Corrections signed a three-year, $1.7 million contract with a Michigan company, House Arrest Services, to include the system at the circuit court level.
The system, called the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, surrounds the person's ankle and tests the blood-alcohol level by sucking air out through pores in the skin.
"You can sometimes feel the actual vibrations of the unit," said Jon Ugval, director of operations at House Arrest Services. "It's barely anything."
Ugval said the company started offering it more than a year ago, 2,500 people have used the SCRAM system. He said about 500 people are using the system currently and the average length of use is 90 days.
The cost of the system is typically $12 a day and paid by the offender, Ugval said. If the offender consumes alcohol, the system knows, he said.
"We can do anything from contacting the court to dispatching the police," Ugval said.
The Department of Corrections is working to train its agents how to use the system and informing circuit court judges of the option when sentencing, said spokesman Russ Marlin.
"What we hope that what they would do is place them on this instead of sending them to prison, which would save us a prison bed," he said. "This is just another form of technology that targets a portion of the people."
Marlin said the majority of offenders who will be placed on the system will be third-time drunken drivers. This is a felony crime in the state of Michigan.
The East Lansing 54-B District Court has used the SCRAM system in the past year, but in moderation, said Nicole Evans, the chief probation officer for the city.
"For the most part, if we're going to test someone, we do it at random," Evans said. "We use house arrest as an alternative to incarnation. We try to use the resources that are available."
Evans said financial constraints, family obligations and the offender's past behavior are factored in when deciding what form of probation to use.
"What we get is people who try to beat the system; they've just been through house arrest," she said. "With this SCRAM technology, it's their sweat.
"There's less of a chance of violating or bypassing."
Having been closely monitored, AA member Jaime said the SCRAM system is a good idea, but in the end, the alcoholic makes the decision to kick the habit.
I also like this idea. I agree if there are quirks, they need to work them out,. I would hate to see someone get busted just for brushing thier teeth At the same time, it's keeps fathers and mothers at home with their kids, and keeps the streets safer to drive in. I also think it helps the addict to stay clean long enough to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for posting Mabear.
__________________ LOVE YOU MRS. D. I WILL FOREVER MISS YOU!!
I think that this is a good idea, get the quirks worked out and it will probably help out alot of people. It's good to know that they're trying to further help our loved ones in such ways. Not only is it protecting the public from potential drunk drivers, but it's also helping our loved ones to stay clean and keep them at a healthy state.