University of Calgary Suggests Non-Criminal Approach to Public Intoxication

A report issued by the University of Calgary suggests that treating public intoxication as a health issue rather than a crime is far more effective both for the intoxicated party(ies) and for the Calgary community as a whole.

This is in keeping with other recommendations made by medical professionals, social workers, and researchers in Calgary and the world over, which suggest that drug and alcohol dependencies are not dealt with effectively by the criminal justice system. Treatment in rehabilitative programs is both more cost-effective and more conducive to positive results than arrests, fines, and jail sentences for offences related to drug and alcohol use.

Using data from Alpha House, a nonprofit group that operates "sobering centres"  as an alternative to being arrested and placed in a police detox lockup, the University of Calgary researchers found that people who had a safe place to sober up had 71 fewer fewer interactions with law enforcement over the following year than those arrested for public intoxication.

This led to 93 percent fewer days in jail, representing a substantial cost savings to law enforcement and Calgary taxpayers while also demonstrating a very positive outcome for Alpha House visitors.

Though public policy surrounding this issue has yet to be altered, dealing with drug- and alcohol- related crimes had been an important issue for Calgary lawmakers and law enforcement agencies, as well as Calgary citizens, and this report will unquestionably add fuel to the crime vs. public health debate.