Transdermal alcohol monitoring : case studies.

McKnight, A.S. Fell, J.C. & Auld-Owens, A.

Judges, probation officers, and parole officers sometimes require impaired-driving offenders and other offenders to abstain from alcohol and other drugs. Consequently, they need a way to determine whether offenders are complying with that requirement. This report describes the experiences of six jurisdictions using continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring–a technology that can detect the use of alcohol by offenders and report it to authorities. There are three basic ways to prevent alcohol-impaired driving by known offenders: (a) prevent driving; (b) prevent driving after drinking; and (c) prevent drinking. Preventing offenders from drinking can potentially protect the public against alcohol-impaired-driving crashes and reduce other alcohol-related problems, such as domestic violence, non-traffic injury, and alcohol addiction. Judges frequently make abstinence a requirement of an offenders’ sentence for a repeat driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) violation and sometimes make it a formal probation requirement. Unless enforced by a monitoring program, however, such a requirement may not have the desired effect. The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) device produced by Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) and the Transdermal Alcohol Detection (TAD) system developed by BI Incorporated (BI) are two transdermal alcohol-monitoring devices that are increasingly being used across the country on alcohol-related criminal offenders. Both devices use ankle bracelets that sample perspiration to detect ethanol vapor and can automatically transfer the information stored on the ankle bracelet via modem to a secure Web server. The data is used to generate daily reports of offenders’ drinking events, tamper attempts, and other forms of noncompliance with program requirements. The system was designed for security and remote reporting to minimize circumvention and render the data usable by supervising agencies. In the United States, the SCRAM device has been in use longer and has achieved much greater market penetration than the TAD. SCRAM reportedly is being used in 46 States. AMS reports that it works with more than 200 service providers in more than 1,800 courts and agencies around the United States. From a group of 9,100 offenders who were monitored using the SCRAM device from 2004 to 2009, 75 percent were considered compliant (no alcohol use or tampering occurred). BI currently has more than 1,700 TAD units in use at nearly 200 sites. The objectives of this project were to determine how extensively transdermal alcohol-monitoring devices are used and to document examples of strong and innovative programs through case studies that can be used by agencies at the State and local levels considering the use of these devices to monitor offenders. Six programs were selected for case study. Information from these six case studies revealed the following: (a) use of transdermal alcohol monitoring of DWI offenders is increasing; (b) transdermal alcohol monitoring appears to reliably monitor alcohol use by offenders (prior methods had not been as reliable) and thus is beneficial to officials; (c) transdermal-monitoring devices appear not to have any insurmountable problems (cost is an issue, but costs are paid mostly by the offender). Research is needed to carefully study whether transdermal alcohol-monitoring devices reduce drinking and DWI recidivism by offenders. (Author/publisher)

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20121856 ST [electronic version only]

Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Transportation DOT, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA, 2012, VI + 125 p., 34 ref.; DOT HS 811 603

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