Courtesy Alcohol Monitoring SystemsThere’s a new tool for justice officials to use in dealing chronic alcohol abuser: the Scram. Scram stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.
It was recently featured in a medical column in the New York Times. Judges hoping to put some more death in the sentence for those involved with alcohol-related crimes order the convicted to wear a Scram on their leg for a prescribed amount of time along with a program of recovery treatment. The Scram senses the body’s intake of any alcohol by measuring air and perspiration emissions from the skin each hour. At least once every 24 hours, the wearer must download data the Scram has collected to a modem that reports the wear’s alcohol levels to a monitoring agency or probation officer. Should Scram show a level of alcohol use, which the sensors can gauge to within a blood-alcohol level of 0.02, authorities will follow up with the offender to see what happened.
In the time that the Scram has been used, authorities report that there’s been a high compliance rate among people not drinking. But occasionally there are misreads or misreports.
Consuming some types of baked goods, such as raisin bread or sourdough English muffins, have triggered Scrams to report alcohol use by an offender. And being an electronics-based device, malfunctions can occur.
On user of the device included in the Times story had two consecutive days of his Scram reporting alcohol use several months into wearing the device. A wary probation officer gave him the benefit of the doubt when he strongly denied any drinking, and further review found that a build up of sweat and grime under the Scram was causing the false alarms.
So what do you think? Is this a good use of technology to help people get over alcohol misuse? Proponents of Scram say that it helps enforce sobriety while the offender has time to learn and work a program of recovery. But is this an infringement of a person’s right to privacy? Does an alcohol offender give up some of his/her rights to privacy? How long should someone sentenced to wear a Scram have to wear the device? Are there better ways for dealing with this? Share your ideas here with other Science Buzz readers.