Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lindsay Lohan: Victim of Pseudoscience?

Lindsay Lohan was just sentenced to 90 days in jail, or rehab, or something. This for violating her probation for an earlier drunk driving offense.
A Beverly Hills judge ruled Tuesday that Lindsay Lohan violated the terms of her probation in a drunk driving case when she failed to attend alcohol education classes and sentenced her to 90 days in jail.

Judge Marsha N. Revel stated several instances over the last few years in which the actress lied about taking drugs and drinking.

"It's like someone who cheats but doesn't think it's cheating if they don't get caught," Revel said.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m.: The judge said that Lohan had repeatedly deceived authorities following her first drunk driving arrest in 2007. She said Lohan lied by pretending she was not the driver in that case. Two months later Lohan was arrested for drunk driving.
I am dubious about sentencing anyone to attend anything like "alcohol education classes." That sounds like "Alcoholics Anonymous" to me, and Alcoholics Anonymous is at best only slightly helpful and at worst actually harmful.

But I don't know what kind of "education" program Ms. Lohan was sentenced to, so I won't go off half-cocked about that. Even though I usually go off half-cocked.

But this is serious. Lindsay Lohan has brought a lot of traffic to this blog and I'm trying to look out for her.

Back to the LA Times story about her sentencing:
Revel was critical of program operator Cheryl Marshall for failing to report Lohan's absences to the court before the actress had her bail revoked when the alarm on her alcohol monitoring device was triggered on June 6. That was the same night that Lohan attended the MTV Music Awards.

Under questions from the prosecutor, Marshall told the court that Lohan did not sign in on some days the program claimed she had attended and that her signature was on a sign-in sheet on a day she did not attend. Marshall revealed Lohan never attended group meetings but opted for one-on-one sessions because of privacy concerns.
So according to the person running this program -- the program to which Ms. Lohan was sentenced earlier -- Ms. Lohan was completing the treatment, just in a slightly unconventional way. So what is the problem?
On June 8, Revel issued an arrest warrant for Lohan after the alarm on her monitoring device was triggered. The alarm typically sounds when the bracelet is tampered with or if the person wearing it consumes alcohol. The SCRAM device, or Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, checks for traces of alcohol in the air above the user's skin.
Does that sound suspicious to you? Go back and re-read the suspicious part -- the part I boldened.

That thing on Lindsay Lohan's ankle, the SCRAM device, does not measure whether the person has actually consumed alcohol, but checks for traces of alcohol in the air above the user's skin.


A device on her ankle that checks for traces of alcohol in the air above the user's skin is what they're relying upon to ensure that Ms. Lohan isn't violating the terms of her probation by drinking?

Ms. Lohan is what is known in the argot of the youth as a "party girl." She stays up till the small hours. She stays out all night and she hangs out with drinkers.* So isn't it just possible that this device is registering false positives by reading the air around Ms. Lohan, and finding it saturated with booze?

*(This is me going off half-cocked and speculating. I don't know who Ms. Lohan hangs out with. We don't travel in the same circles.)

I decided to actually look up some information on these SCRAM bracelets. And no less a respected authority than the "trusty" New York Times suggests that those SCRAM devices aren't so foolproof as you might believe.
Defense lawyers say that despite widespread use, independent, peer-reviewed scientific data is lacking on the device’s reliability and the technology it uses to measure alcohol levels.

False positive readings are also a risk. Among other things, baked goods like raisin bread and sourdough English muffins can cause the body to produce its own alcohol. And like any computer-based device, the Scram can malfunction.
Are you effing serious?

People are having their probation affected by a device that hasn't been peer-reviewed and therefore has no real science to back up its efficacy, and can be affected by raisin bread and English muffins?

Your honor, I eat raisin bread and English muffins every day for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes dinner, too. There's this club I like to go to where they serve it and why the hell do we live in a world where this is going on???

Keep fighting the good fight, Lindsay Lohan! You are being victimized by pseudoscience. Anyone forced to wear these SCRAM bracelets is being victimized. Until there is actual peer-reviewed and reproducable scientific evidence that these SCRAM devices aren't just money-making devices, I say they be eliminated.

Oh, yeah. Money-making devices:
Last year, American courts ordered Scram devices on thousands of defendants released on bond and awaiting trial for alcohol-related offenses, those sentenced to probation, and under-age drinkers. They pay a monitoring agency an average of $12 a day for the device, as well as installation and service fees.
That is what you call insult to injury: The devices haven't been peer-reviewed and might possibly be set off by English muffins, but the person who is being subjected to them has to pay for the privilege.


Don't eat any English muffins.

UPDATE JULY 7 @ 11:20 AM PST: The blog What Would Tyler Durden Do? gives us one more reason to admire Ms. Lohan: She had the words "f*ck u" painted on one of her fingernails during her sentencing.
Yeah well she had “f*ck u” written on her fingernail the entire time. Specifically her middle finger. Which was pointed toward the judge for most of the day.
The posting takes a rather negative attitude toward Ms. Lohan's subtle act of defiance, but she is merely showing the "justice system" the "respect" it deserves.

Lindsay Lohan, showing the judge the respect she deserves. Picture source.

Again, I applaud Ms. Lohan. FREE LINDSAY!

Lindsay Lohan pic source.

1 comment:

shampoo said...

a friend of a friend story, but still... someone similar to lindsey except not famous wore a scram thingie and it did give false positives. she did spend a little bit of time in jail as well, but not because of the monitor.... that was just part of her original sentence. the false positives were cleared up and did not add to her punishment. i'm not defending scram... just saying this is something that happens, apparently.