24/7 Alcohol Bracelets Helping to Keep Veterans Sober and Accountable: Buffalo Veterans Court Tackling Alcohol Issues With Tough Monitoring, a Touch of Compassion
As the country prepares to honor its military veterans November 11th, the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court is employing a high-tech tool to help keep their community’s struggling military veterans sober and accountable.
The veterans program began using the technology, known as SCRAM (for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), in December of 2008 in order to help manage the epidemic rate of alcohol abuse and addiction among the combat veterans in their court. The system includes an ankle bracelet, worn 24/7, that actually samples an offender’s perspiration every 30 minutes in order to measure for alcohol consumption and ensure compliance with court-ordered sobriety and treatment requirements.
The award-winning program was the first veteran-specific court in the country to deal with the unique needs of the ever-increasing number of combat veterans going through the criminal justice system. Under the direction of the Honorable Robert T. Russell, the court aims to link veterans coming through the city’s criminal justice system with a full range of social services, including drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, medical care, anger management, family counseling, vocation/educational services and housing. “Substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, mental health problems–these issues are found in combination and in alarming numbers with our combat veterans,” says Russell. “Ensuring the sobriety of these offenders while we address their issues is essential for long-term success and for helping these men and women get their lives back on track, as well as community safety,” he adds.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) has recently launched a Veterans Treatment Court Clearing House in response to the overwhelming interest in creating a veterans program from courts across the U.S. According to NADCP, there are now 13 Veterans Treatment Courts across the country, and with funding from the Veterans Administration, the number of programs is expected to increase substantially in 2010.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1.8 million combat veterans meet the criteria for having substance abuse issues. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that 35 percent of justice-involved veterans suffer from alcohol dependency, and the U.S. Department of Defense reports that the rate of veteran involvement in alcohol-related incidents, including DUI, reckless driving and drunk and disorderly conduct, more than tripled between 2005 and 2006 alone. “This isn’t about criminality,” says Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which manufactures and markets SCRAM throughout the U.S. “This is about addiction. When these individuals drink, bad things happen, and this program is redefining the way our justice system can change the course of their lives,” says Iiams.
The Buffalo Drug and DUI courts have utilized the SCRAM System since 2007, monitoring more than 330 offenders to-date, and the Veterans Treatment Court began using the anklets in December of 2008. AMS donated 10 units to the Buffalo Veterans program in 2008, acknowledging what Iiams calls the “critical importance” of the ground-breaking program.
SCRAM currently monitors just over 10,000 offenders daily and has monitored more than 115,000 offenders in 48 states since it became available in 2003. SCRAM is used to manage and monitor drunk drivers, drug and domestic violence offenders and underage drinkers. It’s also utilized as a tool in family court, where the determination of custody may be dependent on a participant’s sobriety.