In the year that Douglas County Community Corrections has used court-ordered alcohol detection bracelets, probation officer Craig Eddis has heard about some creative attempts to trick the system.
Such as probationers placing a slice of bologna, or a bit of pig skin, between the bracelet and their skin.
Does that work?
“No,” Eddis said, adding that nothing seems to prevent the bracelets from detecting alcohol.
And the Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM, bracelets, have been an effective tool for keeping probationers away from alcohol, Eddis said.
Offenders have learned that they can’t fool SCRAM, which Eddis says makes it the best alcohol deterrent he’s seen in his 15 years of probation work.
“Their mindset has changed so much,” said Eddis, who talks about how a SCRAM bracelet helped one of his probationers quit drinking after 35 years of alcohol abuse.
The bracelets, ordered for offenders with alcohol problems — and particularly drunken drivers — detect alcohol usage through random tests of perspiration on the wearer’s legs. The information is then sent to a computer program, where authorities can see which offender has been drinking.
The agency last year used a grant to purchase 20 of the $2,000 bracelets. It costs about $5 per day to operate each bracelet, but probationers are charged $10 per day in a program that should eventually pay for itself, said Ron Stegall, the county’s chief executive probation officer.
The bracelets, in use nationally since 2003, are gaining in popularity.
Kathleen Brown, spokeswoman for AMS, the manufacturer of the devices Douglas County uses, said the bracelets are used in 48 states and on more than 130,000 offenders nationwide.
Some critics argue about the accuracy and reliability of the devices, and defense attorneys have contested the results of the bracelets in court. But Stegall said that’s not an issue he’s concerned about.
Before the bracelets, Stegall said probation officers had relied on Breathalyzers at the office or in the field, but they had no way to determine whether an offender had been drinking at other times of the day.
Both Stegall and Eddis point out that the intent of the bracelets isn’t necessarily to punish an offender caught drinking, but rather as a way to assess whether alcohol treatment needs to be stepped up for a particular offender.
“We want the community to know this is designed to help,” Eddis said.