North Carolina has prevented the state’s drug and DWI treatment courts from using technology that has helped thousands of alcoholics stay sober, reports the Charlotte Observer. Guidelines approved in 2007 prohibit courts from using the ankle bracelets commonly employed to ensure that offenders don’t drink. That decision has puzzled and frustrated some officials, who question whether opposition to the technology was sparked in part by turf battles and personality conflicts. David Wallace of the National Center for DWI Courts is not aware of any other state that has imposed such restrictions.
The state’s more than 40 drug and DWI treatment courts are designed to help rehabilitate repeat offenders who suffer from addictions. Participants are typically required to follow their jail sentences with months of intensive alcohol or drug treatment. Judges in other N.C. courts can still order use of the bracelets, which test an offender’s sweat every half-hour for signs of alcohol use. When those on probation are caught drinking, judges can order more treatment or punishment. Offenders pay a private company $12 a day for the device. The decision to prohibit the bracelets in the drug treatment courts follows opposition by two high-ranking state officials who have raised concerns about the technology. Few dispute some of their chief contentions: The devices are pricey and they can’t stop someone from driving drunk. Gregg Stahl, the senior deputy director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, is widely viewed as one of the chief foes of the technology. All the studies about the reliability of the bracelets, Stahl contended, have been funded by the device’s leading manufacturer. “That sort of taints the science,” he said. He also maintains the device is vulnerable to “significant false positives” – that is, registering alcohol use when there has been none.