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Follow Up: Supervisor Seeks Funding for Alcohol Monitoring Program

Published On: Nov 27 2012 08:56:54 PM CST

Riverside County supervisors today directed the
Executive Office to dig into the county budget to see if there are funds
available to support an alcohol-monitoring program that has proven successful
in keeping DUI offenders out of trouble.
      At the urging of Supervisor Jeff Stone, the county will attempt to find
money to assist indigent defendants convicted of driving under the influence
who utilize the "Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring" -- or SCRAM --
      County officials said there is a $2,200 balance in a fund set up for DUI
offenders who can't afford enrollment in the program. In 2009, the Board of
Supervisors allocated $50,000 to shore it up. Stone today asked that fellow
supervisors withdraw discretionary money from their individual community
improvement budgets to again ensure the program's longevity.
      "SCRAM has a 93 percent success rate," said Stone, who strongly
advocated the program's implementation by the courts in 2008. "These are
offenders who do not recidivate."
      SCRAM devices, which are ankle-mounted, can detect alcohol consumption
by measuring the content of a person's perspiration. A DUI offender who agrees
to wear the eight-ounce bracelet as part of his or her probation must keep it
on for anywhere from three to 12 months.
      Sensors can pick up a blood-alcohol level of .02 or above. The devices
have tamper detection systems that reveal when an offender is trying to inhibit
or remove them, according to Littleton, Colo.-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems,
Inc., which developed the SCRAM technology.
      Leaders in Community Alternatives Inc., headquartered in San Francisco,
oversees the SCRAM program in Riverside County. LCA President Linda Connelly
told the board that over the last three years, 1,000 DUI offenders countywide
had completed the program.
      "Our clients are hardcore alcoholics," Connelly said. "They can do
jail standing on their head. Unless they're held accountable and made to stop
drinking, this (alcohol addiction) problem will continue."
      SCRAM users are charged according to a sliding scale based on the
person's income and other factors. LCA needs $12 a day to cover the costs
associated with outfitting each convict.
      Stone said SCRAM helps keep offenders out of already-overcrowded local
jails. The sheriff's department is on track to "kick out" 7,000 low-level
inmates this year. The early releases are a result of a federal court decree
that all cell occupants have a bed. When beds aren't available, sheriff's
officials must decide who can be released onto the street at the least risk to
public safety.
      "Let's reserve jail space for the most violent offenders in the
county," Stone said.
      Supervisor John Benoit questioned whether he had the funds available in
his community budget to allocate to the  SCRAM program, prompting county CEO
Jay Orr to vow to look at alternative funding within the 2012-13 budget.
      "This is desperately needed," Orr said.
      The board directed the Executive Office to come back in two weeks with a
report on what general fund money, if any, is available for the program.