Online Program

Preliminary research informing policy perspectives on alcohol monitoring in criminal justice in Scotland

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dr Christine Goodall, BDS (Hons), BSc (Hons), FHEA, FDS (OS) RCPSGlasg, Hon MFPH, PhD, Medical School, College of MVLS, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Fergus Neville, Ph.D., School of Medicine, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland
Damien Williams, BSc(Hons), PhD, FRSPH, AFHEA, MBPsS, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland
Prof Peter D. Donnelly, MD MPH MBA FRCP FFPH, Professor of Public Health Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom
Karyn McCluskey, R.G.N, B.Sc(Hons), M.Sc Inv Psych, FFPH, D.Univ, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Background. Alcohol is a known risk factor for offending. Addressing offenders’ alcohol issues on release from prison is important in order to reduce recidivism, improve health and wellbeing and promote the reintegration of ex-offenders into society. Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring has been proposed as one of a range of options to address the alcohol issues faced by offenders upon release from prison.

Methods. The utility of alcohol monitoring in criminal justice was explored using a mixed-methods approach. Serving male offenders (n=12) in a Scottish prison took part in focus groups to discuss the role of alcohol in their offending, its effect on their lives and the potential ways in which continuous alcohol monitoring might be used. Further, a pilot randomised controlled trial of continuous alcohol monitoring was undertaken with 20 male offenders on their release from prison.

Results. Serving offenders acknowledged the role alcohol played in their offending although they recognised this could be one of many interacting causal factors. The willingness to wear alcohol monitoring technology on a voluntary basis was discussed, as was the utility of sanctions should conditions be breached. During the trial 11/20 male offenders wore an alcohol monitor on release from prison, their AUDIT scores ranged from 7-40 (mean=28.5, SD=8.99). 18/20 acknowledged alcohol was involved in their current offence. Ten participants wearing an alcohol monitor withdrew within the first week of the study with one participant remaining in the study for a period of 40 days.

Discussion. This study demonstrates the potential utility of continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology in criminal justice settings in Scotland. It also highlights issues that merit further study and careful consideration before wide-scale implementation of the technology. The research fed into a consultation process at policy level on the use of this technology in criminal justice.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the association of alcohol with offending in Scotland Describe the outcomes of offender focus groups and a small pilot trial of alcohol monitoring technology with offenders on release from prison in Scotland. Demonstrate the extent to which research was able to influence policy discussions in this field.

Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior academic with research interests in alcohol and violence. I have published in both of these areas. I played a leading role in the design, execution and analysis of this study and the policy discussions. I have previous experience with the use of the technology described. Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: Study reports the effectiveness and experience of transdermal alcohol monitoring using SCRAMx ankle bracelets manufactured by AMS (
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.