Seven Missouri counties try out ankle bracelets for alcohol-related offenders

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 3:01 p.m. CDT; updated 4:42 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

KANSAS CITY — Seven Missouri counties are taking part in a pilot program to help the state decide whether to require some alcohol-related offenders to wear ankle bracelets that can detect when they have been drinking.

Supporters of the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, say the bracelets will let the state monitor people who have committed alcohol-related crimes without keeping them behind bars.

Pilot counties

The six-month-long pilot program will monitor a total of 70 offenders, each for 90 days. Seven seven probation and parole district offices will participate. They are located in the following counties:

  • St. Louis
  • Vernon
  • Jackson
  • Greene
  • Boone
  • Scott
  • Buchanan

"We're always concerned about overcrowding," said Greene County prosecutor Darrell Moore, whose county is among those in the pilot project. "I want to make sure we have bed space for the career and dangerous criminals."

The bracelets test sweat from the skin of offenders, taking readings every 30 minutes 24 hours a day. Those who are found to have consumed alcohol can have their probation or parole revoked.

"I tell my clients, 'Don't mess with this; it's going to catch you,'" said Denise Masters of Electronic Sentencing Alternatives, which maintains the monitoring program in the Kansas City area. "I say, 'If you think you're going to beat it, you won't.'"

While the devices might help law enforcement agencies keep track of offenders, those wearing the bracelets will have to pay for being monitored — typically $10 to $15 a day, per bracelet.

Officials say that will save taxpayer money and can keep offenders out of jail.

"The goal of the program is to increase our ability to ensure sobriety for clients in our program, ultimately reducing the number of revocations while increasing the safety in the community," said Angie Morfeld, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

If Missouri decides to implement the system after the trial period ends in August, it would become the second state to adopt it.

The bracelets are intended for offenders with histories of alcohol abuse who have been convicted of such crimes as drunken driving or domestic abuse. They have been used on a case-by-case basis across the country, with the company that makes them — Alcohol Monitoring Systems out of Littleton, Colo. — saying courts in 46 states have monitored more than 91,000 offenders over the past several years.

Not all courts have accepted the results, however. In late 2004, a Michigan judge threw out a case involving a SCRAM device after saying it lacked scientific credibility.

Bracelet wearers have to download readings from the devices onto a computer once a day, and analysts in Colorado check to see if the person has consumed alcohol. If drinking is detected, the information is reported to local representatives who send it on to probation and parole officials.

The process of revoking someone's probation or parole can start immediately.

"Seems logical to me that with alcoholics, when there's immediate consequences to their actions sometimes that's better," said Brady Twenter, assistant Jackson County prosecutor. "This allows us to do something immediately after they drink."


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Jodi Arroyo August 25, 2010 | 4:38 p.m.

My husband has a SCRAM bracelet on through Platte CO, MO and has been going each week to get it checked as he's suppose to. He goes in on August 12th and he's told it registers as though it was tampered with and alcohol usage and tells him the date and time it is registering which was August 6th around 9:45 PM. He had had surgery a few weeks prior and had the stitches taken out and steri stripes put on, when they took them off they left a very sticky residue which required trying something to get it off besides just soap so he used rubbing alcohol at this same time and on this same night but the judge doesn't believe him when he tells her this and for the part of tampering with it, it was a new bracelet and wasn't bendable and had caused a blister to form on his ankle so he put some baby powder on his ankle which I told him he had better get it rinsed right off it might mess up the bracelet. My problem with this is 2 things, there is a statement made that with these bracelets being used they can find out as soon as they "drink" or "tamper with it" as it happens which in fact he wasn't notified or talked to for a week at which time he couldn't have gone and done a UA to prove his innocence which basically it goes to show that you are proven guilty first vs. not guilty. My other thing is this judge is not budging on believing him about what really happened neigther are the people that rent the bracelet out and have no concrete evidence after staying up all night researching the different cases out there involving these SCRAM bracelets there have been many times that false positives have come up since they instated these. His lawyer also made a comment that he might have to just say he drank so that this judge will go on with the trial and get the proceedings going EXCUSE ME why would he lie when he didn't drink, you don't do that when you are a recovering alcoholic who has lost everything because of this and is finally getting things back on track. This judge doesn't know him from adam and has no intentions of listening to him say the truth, he's got a few DUI's and he's a recovering alcoholic so he's guilty, end of case. The things they do against some offenders makes no sense and then others get off scott free for far worse of a crime. Our system sucks and is so corrupt it is helping no one except for someone's wallet. It's to sad that our society didn't try to help more vs. be money hungry. I'm disgusted with this process and if I had his judges name I'd post it other than he's a Platte County, MO judge whom I will meet on Tuesday of next week so I can go and be a witness since I was there and saw what he did as well as helped with getting the sticky stuff off with the alcohol. Frustrated in the land of oz.

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez August 25, 2010 | 5:21 p.m.

So how many offenders in Boone County are now wearing these? This looks like a good story to do a serious follow up on.

(Report Comment)
Lori Carey June 18, 2011 | 3:59 p.m.

I too am on a scram bracelet supplied by PPS out of St. Joseph I was informed on June 14 that I had consumed alcohol on the 12th between the hours of 7:30pm and 8:30pm when in actuality I was in bed due to the fact that I get up at 2:00am to be at work at 4:00am. When I went to meet with the supplier of this bracelet I was told that the bracelet can tell the difference between consumption and accidental exposure, really???? Not to mention I was basically called a liar when I made the comment I would like to take a polygraph right now to prove my innocence I was told these are like a lie detector only "they don't lie"
ok well we will see, I took my happy little self for a UA beings it was within 72 hours of consumption and am currently waiting on the outcome which I know will be negative also I do have 2 witnesses to the fact I was in bed. I have since done extensive research due to the fact that this is a probation violation for me and I could lose my job over this, in that case yes I will see someone in court for sure. So wearer beware!!!! When you have these on you are absolutely guilty until proven innocent!!! Keep track of everything you do what product you use and who is around you at all times while haveing this little beauty on, in other words cover your behind!!!!

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