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"Smart people (like smart lawyers) can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view."

- Richard P. Feynman, Physicist

"There is a danger in clarity, the danger of over looking the subtleties of truth."

-Alfred North Whitehead

July 9, 2010

Alcohol Monitoring Devices

A study evaluated the effect of the use of a SCRAM alcohol monitoring device on reducing recidivism for driving while intoxicated offenders.[i] The SCRAM ankle bracelet detects alcohol from samples of sweat collected in the air above the skin around the ankle bracelet and either stores or transmits the data. The SCRAM device is designed to thwart tampering.

On the average, offenders wore the SCRAM device for 70 days. Only 4 out of 114 SCRAM wearers were arrested for another criminal offense while wearing the device.

The researchers found that for every one year increase in age, there was an approximate 3% reduction in the probability of recidivism. They also found that for every additional prior OWI, there was an approximate 11% increase in the probability of recidivism.

The researchers also found offenders that wore the SCRAM device less than 90 days had no long-term reduction in recidivism rates compared to those who didn’t wear it (the comparison group). However, if offenders wore the SCRAM device for at least 90 days the overall recidivism rate was about one half the rate of the comparison group.

This result comports with research that suggests that 90 days of drug treatment may be the minimum length of treatment to detect any treatment effect.[ii]

The researchers warn that these are preliminary results that need to be replicated by others. However, at this time it appears that the use of a continuous alcohol monitoring device such as a SCRAM bracelet may be an economical method to reduce recidivism in OWI offenders.




[i]Flango, Victor E. and Fred L. Cheeseman, (2009). “Effectiveness of the SCRAM Alcohol Monitoring Device: A Preliminary Test”, Drug Court Review, Vol. VI, 2. p. 109-133.

[ii] Marlowe, D., D. DeMatteo and D. Festinger (2003). “ A sober assessment of drug courts.” Federal Sentencing Reporter. 16, 153-157



The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the author(s) and do not represent the views of any other public official or organization.

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