The Relationship Between Alcohol & Crime: Why You Need an Alcohol Monitoring Program

Alcohol abuse is a contributing factor in thousands of crimes committed in the U.S each year. COVID-19 and social-distancing protocols have only added to alcohol-related crimes. Alcohol sales increased 21% from June 2019 to June 2020, along with violent crime.1 Commonly associated with drinking and driving traffic fatalities, research proves that alcohol is an integral part of most crimes. The influence of alcohol and addiction creates problems at every level of the corrections process; therefore, it’s important that agencies have an effective alcohol monitoring program in place.

Scope of Alcohol-Related Crimes in the U.S.2

Many individuals end up in the criminal justice system because they committed crimes while intoxicated:

  • 1/3 of traffic-related deaths are alcohol-related
  • 25-50% of assaults involve alcohol
  • Over 60% of domestic violence accounts report the perpetrator had been drinking
  • Nearly 40% of child abusers have admitted to being under the influence of alcohol during the abuse
  • 30%- 40% of reported sexual assaults, including rapes, are committed by a perpetrator under the influence

Benefits of an Alcohol Monitoring Program

Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and while incarceration may stop the use of alcohol, oftentimes it does not cure the addiction. While on probation or parole, many individuals continue to struggle with their addiction, and this often contributes to reoffending. In other cases, parolees or probationers may avoid criminal activity, but their addiction makes it difficult to comply with sentence requirements. A variety of proven technology alcohol detection solutions are available to monitor individuals under community supervision.

An effective alcohol monitoring program can:

  • Enhance public safety
  • Ease jail overcrowding and its cost to the taxpayer
  • Help individuals pay for their own treatment and monitoring
  • Enhance treatment efforts
  • Address the needs of low- to high-risk individuals

Trusted Leader in Alcohol Monitoring Solutions

BI Incorporated offers a full continuum of alcohol monitoring technologies that enable agencies, courts, and law professionals to efficiently and cost-effectively manage the sobriety of low- to high-risk individuals. Our court-admissible solutions are designed to drive compliance and accountability while individuals undergo treatment in the community.

Transdermal detection for high-risk participants:

BI TAD®, or Transdermal Alcohol Detector, continuously monitors for alcohol consumption through a noninvasive skin sensor worn on a client’s ankle. TAD also includes radio frequency monitoring capabilities so clients can be monitored for curfews and alcohol use with the same device. Learn more

Mobile breathalyzer for low- to high-risk participants:

The BI SL3® handheld alcohol detection device enables individuals to submit BrAC tests discretely while they work, attend school, and live in the community. Equipped with LTE technology to support next-generation alcohol monitoring, this breathalyzer is a discreet yet powerful solution. Learn more

1“Preventing Violence in American Cities with Safer Alcohol Sales.” de Beaumont Foundation. Accessed August 4, 2021.

2“Alcohol-Related Crime.” Addiction Center, June 16, 2021.

White Paper Highlights Technological Trends in Corrections

The Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to promote and enable technology to maximize safety, efficiency, and productivity in the public sector. Their white paper Corrections Tech 2020: Technological Trends in Custodial and Community Corrections, describes the role of innovative technology, and the areas it can be used to address current and future correctional needs. “The corrections industry is going through a period of considerable business change, in which technology is acting as both a response to changing demand and an innovative surplus to further changes.”

As the technology landscape becomes more complex, agencies will need to reevaluate how to best invest their dollars to meet current and future needs, and still maintain a secure infrastructure. The eight trends outlined in this white paper include:

Trend #1

Alternative to Incarceration: As reform efforts work to relieve jail and prison overcrowding, there is a considerable need for electronic monitoring technology that allows public and private agencies to share data. Diversion strategies and legislative reform to combat high incarceration rates will perpetuate the need for electronic monitoring.

Trend #2

Cost Avoidance and Reducing Workloads: Agencies will continue to embrace new technology to reduce over-extended correctional budgets and officer caseloads. Automated software and easily optimized electronic monitoring technology that is flexible and configurable will be in high demand.

Trend #3

Increased Mobility: Rapid mobile transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be a primary focus. Officers will rely on unified communications (UC) tools that offer single-platform integrated communication and collaboration tools. Individuals under supervision will use their own devices to actively participate in their monitoring. Agencies will take special interest in locked-down devices, wearables, and products that feature wireless access.

Trend #4

Big Data and Advanced Analytics: Solutions that aggregate greater volumes of data in real-time for more complex devices will be more prevalent. The demand for Real-Time Crime Centers (RTTCs) that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline data, social media surveillance, and predictive modeling will increase to enhance public safety.

Trend #5

Evidence-based Population Management: As the industry continues to rely on AI and data analytics, agencies will look for educational technology which includes risk and needs assessments and evidence-based solutions proven to reduce recidivism. A focus will be on devices that offer community resources including access to healthcare, housing, and employment.

Trend #6

Expanded Information Sharing: Correctional agencies will shift from operating in silos to national information sharing standards. Collaboration efforts across multiple agencies will make data readily available to criminal justice, public safety, emergency and disaster management, and intelligence agencies.

Trend #7

Cloud Services and Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity has been a major concern for decades, and with the rise of new technology and the shift to cloud-managed software, companies are becoming increasingly more vulnerable. Electronic monitoring providers that house client data will be subject to strict government regulations and audits, resulting in significant investment to abide by these standards.

Trend #8

Standards and Policy: The evolution of technical standards to improve the effectiveness and reliability of electronic monitoring solutions is expected to increase significantly. Electronic monitoring equipment will have to meet rigorous business standards, legislation, and accreditations to demonstrate compliance with growing cybersecurity concerns.


The demand for electronic monitoring products and services is on the rise and expected to increase exponentially in the coming years, as diversion strategies release more individuals to community supervision. Interconnected technology, cloud-based software platforms, and AI analytics have the opportunity to evolve community corrections in many positive ways. As a result, agencies will have to become increasingly more strategic as to where to best invest their funds and evaluate their electronic monitoring programs and providers…

Joe Newell, Senior Director of Research & Development at BI Incorporated, provides background on BI’s strategy to stay ahead of the game, “Our mission is to explore technology concepts and ideas that lead to the creation of reliable and forward-thinking products and solutions. We partner with world-class universities and emerging technology companies, and we continually evaluate and research future-ready hardware, software, and services. Just because a technology is the new media darling, it doesn’t mean that it’s ready for use in the community corrections realm.”

BI Incorporated takes pride in developing products and services that are ready for the rigors of electronic monitoring. Our diverse continuum of products and solutions provides supervision options for all populations and is easily scalable to meet the needs of any size agency.

To read the complete white paper, visit the National Institute of Corrections.

American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) Releases Issue Paper on Location Monitoring

MAY 21, 2019

Location monitoring systems, commonly referred to as GPS offender tracking systems, were introduced as a compliance tool 25 years ago to support community corrections agencies and their supervision efforts. Used primarily by probation, parole and pretrial officers, these systems have become more sophisticated over time, gathering real-time data via GPS, WiFi, cellular tower triangulation, or other means.

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) technology committee has just released a comprehensive issue paper, “Incorporating Location Tracking Systems into Community Supervision,” that explores the origin of these systems, what they are, how and why they are being used, costs, and how well the community corrections field has received them.  In addition, the paper explores how agencies using these systems address and mitigate risks.

Relevant Comments from APPA’s Paper

Location tracking systems (LTS) are reliable supervision instruments and increase accountability.

“Location tracking can be a powerful supervision and containment tool – one that provides significant information about a client’s daily activities. This information can help determine whether the client is complying with location-specific supervision requirements (e.g., a curfew or required attendance at treatment or school) or whether he/ she was at the scene of a crime. Further, it has been hypothesized that monitoring movement patterns and holding individuals accountable to a rigid schedule can help provide structure that may reinforce better lifestyle habits (DeMichele & Payne, 2009).”

LTS act as an effective deterrent against potential criminal activity.

“If a client supervised on a location tracking system is intent on committing a crime, or acts impulsively, it is unlikely that an agency can respond in time to prevent the crime. However, through crime scene correlation such a client can be placed at the scene of a reported crime, which greatly increases the likelihood of arrest and conviction for the new offense. This level of accountability may deter some clients from new criminal activity, at least during the period when they are being are tracked.”

LTS are part of a larger case management strategy.

“The existing evidence does tell us that the use of an LTS, just as with any intervention, should at a minimum be tied to client risk level and be incorporated into a larger case management plan, and violations should be addressed swiftly and with certainty (Hawken & Kleiman, 2009).”

The use of LTS promotes the practice of pro-social behavior.

 “LTS effectiveness may be demonstrated in measures other than recidivism… There is a potential opportunity to assist client reentry and community adjustment through the application of the structure often associated with LTS programs, with an emphasis on developing pro-social activities for those on community supervision. Location tracking may be able to help provide this structure, as clients typically must live by a strict, and often pre-approved schedule.”

Use of LTS keeps family units intact

“Using LTS technology as an alternative to incarceration offers many obvious benefits to clients and their families. Compliant individuals are able remain in the community, continue working, and help raise and support their children. The importance of keeping a family unit intact cannot be overstated, particularly for females, as children can be an important protective factor supporting a law-abiding lifestyle.”

In conclusion, the APPA Technology Committee found that when implemented properly, location tracking can be an important community supervision tool. In the 13-page issue paper, the authors suggest location tracking “can save taxpayer dollars, preserve limited space for violent criminals in jails and prisons, assist in reentry and community transition, keep nonviolent individuals from exposure to more serious criminal activity, and promote the practice of prosocial behavior in the confines of one’s home.”

Additionally, the committee stated that when used for clients already under community supervision, “it can provide enhanced accountability, structure, and better outcomes.”

Read the APPA Technology Committee’s issue paper.

American Probation and Parole Association Releases Issue Paper on Leveraging the Power of Smartphone Applications to Enhance Community Supervision

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) technology committee has released a comprehensive issue paper, “Leveraging the Power of Smartphone Applications to Enhance Community Supervision,” that addresses the use of smartphone applications installed on a client’s personal device, or a device provided to the client, to be used in support of the community supervision process. The following provides a summary of key points.

Approximately 69% of the correctional population is under some form of community supervision, yet only 12% of corrections spending is directed to probation/parole services. Cellular phone technology may be used to directly influence behavioral change through real-time communication with an individual’s supervising officer. Cell phones can be a cost-effective option to expand supervision capabilities and provide officers a fast, convenient way to communicate with clients:

  • 95% of individuals aged 18-29 own a smartphone (81% of all US adults)1
  • Smartphones enable individuals to stay accountable and easily connect with supervising officers:
    • In-app messaging
    • Internet resource access
    • Video conferencing through camera
    • Bluetooth breathalyzer capability
    • Location monitoring or remote check-ins

The two primary options for supervising agencies is to purchase and provide smartphones to clients (corporate-owned) or to require individuals to use their own personal smartphones, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Regardless of which option agencies select, the following considerations should be determined prior to deployment:

  • Corporate-owned devices are more secure however BYOD programs are cheaper for the supervising agencies because individuals cover the total device cost
  • Continuous Tracking (continuous GPS) versus Periodic Location Sampling (random GPS check-ins) both offer different benefits and impact to officer workload
  • Agencies must determine which smartphone data will be collected and used to avoid officer information overload
  • Another key factor is whether the app integrates with an existing agency or service-provider case management system or whether officers must perform additional administrative work (i.e. dual system data entry)

The following breakdown shows the primary differences between using a corporate-owned device versus BYOD:

Client Location and Identity Confirmation

Location monitoring may be a useful tool in monitoring an individual’s compliance. Periodical Location Sampling confirms client location through random biometric check-ins. A biometric identifier such as a fingerprint, voice or faceprint, is used or an officer may require a secure credential or password during location check-ins. Low-risk individuals who do not require “on-demand” monitoring may benefit from this feature. Continuous Tracking gathers location data continuously using GPS, which typically requires a secure, body-worn device and/or a Bluetooth tether, creating a two-piece monitoring device when paired with a smartphone. This solution may be better for moderate- to high-risk individuals who have demonstrated non-compliance or an unwillingness to carry a smartphone.

Smartphone Supervision Functionality

The following smartphone and application features are currently available:

Remote Reporting and Supervision

  • Individual remotely submits employment status, living arrangements, or other desired updates or reports; supervising officer determines frequency (scheduled, random, immediately prompted)
  • Officers conduct a live interview or home walk-through using the device camera, inspecting the contents of drawers, cabinets, refrigerators, etc.

Calendar Event Management

  • Remind clients of court appearances or therapeutic appointments (may reduce failure to appears rates by up to 30%)
  • Calendar events can be linked to location-based services to provide an officer alert if the client failed to appear as scheduled

Positive Reinforcement Tool

  • Smartphones are less conspicuous than stigmatized supervision tools (e.g. ankle monitors)
  • Deliver positive reinforcement through instant officer communication via text messaging, or automated programmed responses to desired behavior

Connecting Clients with Resources

  • Phones have internet access allowing clients to visit employment websites, find information regarding healthcare or addiction treatment, and other positive providers
  • Some apps aggregate existing resources that are most useful to the client (conditions of supervision, cognitive behavioral or life-skills training materials)

Additional Functionality

  • Link the smartphone to a Bluetooth enabled breathalyzer
  • Link the smartphone with third-party drug testing services so the client receives notifications
  • Pay court fees, fines, or other treatment costs

Legal and Ethical Issues

Using smartphone applications to gather individual location data may be considered a form of electronic monitoring in some jurisdictions, so agencies must determine if the court or Parole Board permission is required prior to deploying the program. Ethical concerns may be raised regarding whether a supervising agency should be able to activate the device camera or audio functionality at will. Agencies should determine whether they may mandate the client’s use and functionality of the smartphone and prohibit their use of a secondary personal device. Lastly, agencies should create clear policies regarding when the phone would become subject to search and seizure.

Read the full issue paper.

1 Pew Research Center, Global Attitudes & Trends, “Smartphone Ownership is Growing Rapidly Around the World, But Not Always Equally”, February 4, 2019.