Despite the nation’s efforts, alcohol-impaired driving continues to be a major public safety concern for counties across the U.S. The FBI reports that 1.4 million adults are arrested annually for driving under the influence. They account for more than 15 percent of offenders under supervision in the community.
Recidivism is frequent. On average, 36 percent of those on probation or parole, and 66 percent of those incarcerated are repeat, hardcore drunk drivers.
In addition, economic conditions over the last several years have increased the number of defendants who are unable to post bond, contributing to the substantial increases is both jail populations and average time incarcerated.
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As a result of these growing pressures, technologies known as electronic monitoring (EM), including GPS tracking, house arrest-curfew monitoring and Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM), are seeing rapid adoption as cost-effective options for balancing community safety and offender accountability. A report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found counties could save an average of $71.23 a day in incarceration costs by employing programs like these to manage and monitor nonviolent offenders
Some of the fastest growth has been seen in the use of CAM, which is aimed specifically at the high-risk, high-recidivist DUI population. The system is worn 24/7 and tests offenders, without their participation, at least 48 times a day to ensure they stay sober.
More than 250,000 offenders have been monitored with CAM since its introduction to the market in 2003. Prior to this high-tech testing, little alcohol monitoring was done on drunk drivers. Alcohol metabolizes quickly in the body, making the random-periodic screenings that are so effective in drug testing relatively ineffective when testing for alcohol.
Electronic monitoring is not only much lower in cost than the average $75 a day it costs to house offenders, but the majority of programs require offenders to shoulder many of the costs of their supervision, including the monitoring, which averages $10 a day for CAM. The result is that even small CAM programs can save counties millions each year.
The largest provider of CAM, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which manufactures the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAMx), reports that 80 percent of its monitored offenders contribute to the cost of their monitoring, and that 79 percent of the 234,000 offenders they’ve monitored as of June 2012 were fully compliant.
Costs for the other 20 percent are funded through grants or drunk driver fees, and most counties have indigent programs that allow qualifying offenders to access funds to offset their monitoring costs.
Both the technology and the funding model have been implemented in rural and urban counties. South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana’s 24/7 Sobriety Programs all implement CAM monitoring statewide, solving the issues of offender access and driving for a population generally sanctioned with license suspension. Large CAM programs are in place in mid-sized and large urban counties, as well, including Wayne County, Mich.; Dallas and Tarrant counties in Texas; and Hennepin County, Minn. More than 1,800 jurisdictions currently use CAM for managing drunk drivers.
Multnomah County, Ore. has been recognized for its DUI Intensive Supervision Program, which began in 1998. In 2008, County Commissioner Judy Shiprack said the county turned to CAM technology to support its program. “Our program incorporates treatment, frequent contact with program participants, and a strong testing program for drugs and alcohol,” said Shiprack, who cites Multnomah’s low recidivism rate as proof of their program’s success.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 13.5 out of every 100 offenders in Multnomah County re-offend within three years, compared to 66 out of every 100 nationwide.