Vice Squad
Monday, July 30, 2007
The Alcohol-Detecting Ankle Bracelet

Vice Squad has long been fascinated with the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) ankle bracelet. If it works, it can reduce the external costs of alcohol abuse, and possibly reduce the need to target alcohol more generally via an excise tax. SCRAM received some good publicity when a celebrity voluntarily wore one on her way out of a rehabilitation clinic, but the limits of the bracelet were suggested when the celebrity subsequently was arrested on various charges, one of them alcohol-related. (The charges have not been proven, of course. One of them is a felony charge for cocaine possession, which to my mind is more of an indictment of the law than of the arrestee.) Newsweek takes the opportunity to interview an official with the company that makes the alcohol monitor. He indicates that 5 to 10 percent of the uses are voluntary; many of these are initiated by defense attorneys anxious to establish a record of sobriety for their clients.

One of the benefits of a prolonged stay in Tbilisi is that the news of celebrity arrests can take weeks to reach me, or miss me altogether.

Vice Squad first mentioned the bracelet in 2004.

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