Riverside County supervisors today approved funding for an alcohol-monitoring program used in lieu of jail and proven as a means of preventing many DUI convicts from re-offending.
Without comment, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize the county Department of Mental Health to withdraw $10,000 from a non-general fund account in support of the "Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring" -- or SCRAM -- program for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
The money will be applied to assist indigent defendants who wish to participate in SCRAM.
Last month, Supervisor Jeff Stone asked fellow supervisors to join him in allocating sums from their community improvement budgets to keep the program solvent. At the time, it had a $2,200 balance.
Since then, the DMH identified $10,000 in an account into which DUI penalty fees are deposited that can be tapped, sparing the supervisors from having to dip into their discretionary funds.
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.
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.
"SCRAM has a 93 percent success rate," the supervisor said on Nov. 27. "These are offenders who do not recidivate."
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 last month.