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.
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
"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."