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March 24, 2011

Is a "drunk tank" a wise and humane alternative sanction for public intoxication?

The question in the title of this post is inspired by this interesting piece from the Houston Chronicle, which is headlined "Sober up, receive help and avoid a jail record; Drunk tank is humane, cheaper aid for alcoholics, some in city say."  Here is how the piece starts:

Opening a sobering center — a drunk tank where the 19,000 people picked up for public intoxication in the city every year could be taken in lieu of jail — could save Houston money and help connect chronic alcoholics with the assistance they need, according to police, mental health advocates and a City Council member.

While there is no formal proposal, proponents envision a center staffed by substance abuse professionals who could counsel alcoholics and connect them with the housing, treatment and other services.

"It's a more humane way of dealing with alcoholics," said Houston police Lt. Mike Lee.  He envisions a scenario in which those arrested for public intoxication would spend several hours sobering up, after which they would be free to go with no arrest record, no court appearances and no extended stay requiring meals, medical attention and officer supervision.

The city may be able to run a sobering center for a little more than half the $5.8 million currently spent on public intoxication annually, Lee said, cautioning that the figures are preliminary and must be vetted more thoroughly in coming months.  "It's not going to be free and it's not going to be cheap," Lee said. "I think it's going to be cheaper."

The savings could be critical as Houston seeks to close a $130 million budget gap for the coming fiscal year — including a possible $33 million reduction in police spending.  Mayor Annise Parker supports the concept of a sobering center as a way to reduce jail expenditures, according to a mayor's spokeswoman.

Of the Houston Police Department's 139,617 arrests last year, 19,587 were for public intoxication.

March 24, 2011 at 09:06 AM | Permalink


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Thanks for your share,thanks a lot.Good luck!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 6:16:53 AM

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