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Correction to This Article
This article about electronically monitoring people for alcohol consumption misidentified Arthur J. Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice, as Albert J. Lurigio. The article also did not specify which Loyola University he is affiliated with; it is Loyola University Chicago.
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Own Sweat Has Become Alcohol Offenders' New Snitch

Bari Lynne Williams said she has endured some gawking over her ankle monitoring device.
Bari Lynne Williams said she has endured some gawking over her ankle monitoring device. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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"Sometimes it's like being on display, but I tell them what happened, and they listen," Williams said.

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Williams's troubles began in April 2007. After partying her way through a golf game, she was pulled over by Loudoun sheriff's deputies on suspicion of drunken driving. They also found baggies with drug residue in her car, according to court documents.

Williams pleaded guilty to drunken driving and drug possession and received two years' probation. As part of the Drug Court initiative, however, the judge agreed to dismiss the charges if Williams followed a rigorous program involving probation, therapy and compulsory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The program also requires periodic testing for substance abuse.

Until two months ago, Williams was doing fine. Then a sheriff's deputy paid an unannounced nighttime visit for a breath test. Williams said she was sober. The machine, however, registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.09, a hair over Virginia's 0.08 legal limit.

Facing six months in jail for violating the terms of the program, Williams instead agreed to wear the SCRAM anklet, whose development began 10 years ago after Michigan law enforcement officials began using GPS devices to track offenders' whereabouts.

"When we were coming up with this idea in the mid-1990s, we kept hearing from law enforcement agencies that alcohol was so difficult to test for," said Don White, chief operating officer of Alcohol Monitoring Systems. "You could be drinking at night, be at the legal limit and down to zero again in the morning for a urine test."

The breakthrough came in 2002 with a miniature fuel cell sensitive enough to detect the minute amount of alcohol that emerges from a person's skin after consumption. Today, there are approximately 15,000 SCRAM anklets in use in 46 states. A version equipped with GPS is due next month.

For Williams, the alcohol-sniffing anklet took some getting used to. In the shoe department at Macy's last month, she became annoyed as three women gawked at her anklet and whispered.

"It's Gucci," she snapped.

But she's also thankful for SCRAM, because wearing the anklet beats sitting in jail.

"I'm not too embarrassed by it," she said. "It keeps me from drinking, and it's like training wheels. Soon, I'll have it off and be on my own, alcohol-free."

The idea that governments could monitor its citizens' every move with technology has been the stuff of fiction for decades, and the technology that allows people to create invisible fences for other people has been around for almost 20 years. But in a world with E-ZPass, spyware and surveillance cameras, the notion that law enforcement is increasing its ability to monitor people's physiological states unsettles privacy advocates.

Mark Monmonier, a professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University who has written about sophisticated mapping techniques and privacy, said advances in microprocessors and other technology will almost certainly lead to more intrusive monitoring and potential abuses.

"What is really alarming people is the possible problems, and the problem's not just Big Brother," Monmonier said. "It's a lot of Little Brothers."


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