Alcohol Monitors Being Used for Treatment Instead of Punishment

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Until now they've been used for punishment, but one West Texas county found a new use for the SCRAM or alcohol monitoring unit. Not only is it helping keep offenders honest but it's giving a second chance to the one's using it for treatment.

It's a high tech gadget but chances are you don't want the hefty ankle-wear around your leg.

"It always have to be in contact with your skin, so as the alcohol leaves your skin, it shows up in the monitor," Carolyn Jones, Director of Andrews Corrections, said.

The SCRAM has been used to make sure anyone with an intoxication charge doesn't hit the bottle before they head to trial. But in Andrews County, the District Judge and Corrections Director created a new program using the punishment bracelet for treatment.

"I'm not sure that there are other counties that fund the monitors," Jones said. "We have been so fortunate with Andrews County because to be able to use the monitors as a treatment tool instead of just sanctions or pretrial."

And their success is impressive. They've never had a re-offender.

"I personally feel like we have more success when people realize that this is a help for them," Jones said. "It's not a sanction. It's more of a help for them, to give them more sober time."

While some of the wearer's may be court-ordered to keep it on their foot, others are using it for 3-12 months after completing the treatment program keeping themselves in check and consequently protecting all those other drivers on the road.

"It's a good feeling for us because we feel like we've helped people. That's what we're here for," Jones said.

NewsWest 9 also spoke with the Andrews District Judge James Rex, and he said these SCRAM units are the number one tool for probationers. Not only are they a safe-guard for other drivers on the streets, but they also allow the wearer to be able to continue-on as a member of society until they go to trial.

There's such a big need for those units that during the last month, the county commissioners added an additional $5,000 to the program making it a $15,000 operation.