SCRAM technology successful in Portage County

Samantha Worgull

Portage County saw a 20 percent decrease in its offenses for operating a vehicle under the influence last year, according to the Portage County Municipal Court’s 2010 annual report.

Probation officer Eric French thinks the county’s alcohol-related incidents are being addressed more than ever now.

“Most of the judges here are very concerned with alcohol issues because Portage County has a lot of alcohol incidents,” he said. “A lot of those issues come from college students because Kent is the largest city in Portage County.”

The county has been combating drunken driving through the use of SCRAM and SCRAMx bracelets. SCRAM, or Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, came to Portage County in 2005. SCRAMx is a newer version of the SCRAM that also electronically monitors house arrest. The technology comes from SCRAMNET, a company based out of Denver, Colo.

“Offenders are placed on SCRAM bracelets if they have a second offense OVI, or a high-tier first offense,” French said. “It is usually for a period of 180 days, but that all depends on the judge.”

Since the SCRAM technology was introduced in Portage County, there have been 1,474 offenders placed on it. The success rate of the program is 89 percent, which is one of the highest success rates in the state of Ohio, French said.

The bracelet is intended to make sure offenders do not consume alcohol, and more importantly, not get into a car after consuming alcohol. Once offenders are placed on the SCRAM program, a probation officer will assign them a time to come in once a week and plug into a modem, French said.

“The SCRAM measures alcohol absorbed into the skin, body temperature and an IR reading,” French said. “IR means infrared, and its purpose is to make sure nothing comes between the bracelet and the skin.”

If the bracelet detects an alcohol reading, it will take a reading every 15 to 30 minutes. But typically, the bracelet takes a reading between 3 and 5 a.m., depending on when the person works. If they work third shift, the reading may be scheduled at a different time.

Once the bracelet detects alcohol in the blood, the probation officer will write a report, print out the graph showing temperature increases and alcohol levels and send it to SCRAMNET.

“Most of the times, people will admit to drinking before having to go through this process,” French said. “SCRAMNET goes through great lengths to make sure to confirm an alcohol consumption properly.”

“These bracelets are so good if you talk to an analyst, they can tell you what time you went to sleep last night and what time you had a bowel movement,” said Steve Beery, probation officer at the Portage County Adult Probation Center. “It’s all in your heart pattern.

“If anything’s not exactly where it should be, they (SCRAMNET), will throw it out. It is a science. A confirmed consumption is a slam dunk. There’s no way around it.”

Beery said sometimes people who are on the SCRAM will choose to remain on the SCRAM. Some will also keep it on for driving privileges.

“It’s not all about punishment,” French said. “It’s about recognizing that people have drinking problems and sometimes you realize people that you didn’t think had a problem, do.”

Contact Samantha Worgull at [email protected].