CALGARY, June 25, 2015 /CNW/ - During Stampede, and for much of the rest of the year, police and the justice system in Calgary spend a great deal of time dealing with public drunkenness. But should an individual really be arrested for public intoxication? To this day, public intoxication is in many places still a criminal offence, including Canada.
What if, instead of approaching public intoxication as a crime, we think of it as a symptom of larger problems? And what if, instead of routinely arresting those found drunk in public, we gave them a place to sober up, where they also have the opportunity to get help for other issues that may be contributing to the situation that put them there in the first place?
A report released today by The School of Public Policy and author Alina Turner, uncovers that during a twelve-month assessment period, the results of Alpha House's (sobering centre) approach appears to not only have a dramatic effect in helping those who have turned up publicly intoxicated but also provides apparent benefits for the community. According to Turner, "We need to develop person-centered options for vulnerable Calgarians that balance effective intervention with broader public safety concerns; sobering centres can be part of system-level responses to achieve these outcomes."
The study observed an estimated 62.6 per cent decrease in the number of times clients were hospitalized, a 50 per cent decrease in the use of emergency medical services, and a 42.4 per cent decrease in the number of times using an emergency room. The most dramatic reduction being an estimated 92.7 per cent decrease in the average number of days clients spent in jail compared to the year prior, and a 70.8 per cent decrease in the number of interactions with police.
Can sobering centres replace medical and police interventions? No. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach to intoxication is necessary, one including sobering facilities along with a continuum of housing, health, and corrections responses that challenges the criminalization of addiction. If the goal in criminalizing public intoxication is to reduce harm to the individual and those around them – the sobering centre approach appears to provide a more effective solution.
The paper can be downloaded at http://www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/?q=research
SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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