There’s a new way to treat people for public intoxication. Of course, there’s the old age manner of shoving them in the “drunk tank”. These means they sit in a jail cell until they’ve sobered up. Some people end up needed to stay longer in jail for things they may have pulled while drunk.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma they’re testing out sobering centers. This means that instead of being dropped off at the local jail people have the chance to go to a sobering center instead. Sobering centers are facilities that specialize in addiction treatment and recovery.
They’re given a minimum of ten hours to stay and sober up. They can’t stay longer than 12 hours though. Then they have a decision to make. They can stay and get treatment for addiction or they can call for a ride home. No worries though, nothing will be added to their criminal record either way.
The program could really affect incarceration rates. This is because it would give people who repeatedly offend a chance to get better and recover.
Oklahoma is actually the state who has the highest incarceration rate. 60 percent of their arrests are for public intoxication so it could really change things.
Obviously, a lot of people are choosing to try out the sobering center than go to jail. This actually can lower costs overall for their prisons system because fewer people are taking up space in jail.
It Really Works
Those in Tulsa who are arrested because of public intoxication aren’t hard to categorize. This means they’re about two types of people. There are those who have a real substance abuse problem who need help. Then there are those who really just made a one-time mistake.
Clarifying between the two can be important. This is so those that really need help get it and that those who won’t do it again don’t get this on their criminal record.
It is possible to move to a higher grade treatment facility afterward as well if it is needed.
It costs Tulsa $69 per day to house someone who was arrested for public intoxication. It also takes up time for cops that could be out dealing with more important issues.
Instead of taking 90 minutes to process and book someone in jail they can take just ten to drop them off a sobering center. There’s less drama and less procedure and people get help instead of punishment.
There was a similar center in Albuquerque New Mexico but it was with panhandlers. The city offered each day to pay homeless for work. They would clean up parks and help with other city beauty projects.
It turned out most people who weren’t handicapped or using drugs were willing to work for pay when offered.
People want to be given chances. Jail isn’t the right answer for every situation. That’s why it is important for cities to adopt things like sobering centers. This gives the chance to help save money and save people too.