Friday, October 9, 2009


“We’re looking into reviving the idea of a sobering center in I.V.,” Farr said.

This is a quote of Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr that appeared in the Daily Nexus today. I am glad the idea is not completely dead, but I'm not sure that this isn't simply more lip-service favoring the concept intended to passify those of us who feel very strongly that a sobering center is an absolute must. We don't need to watch another few hundred people in IV be deprived of their civil liberties this Fall; not to mention, as the article makes clear, take IV Foot Patrol officers out of service (of IV that is) for the couple of hours that it takes to process a single needless Public Intoxication arrest. Clearly they have better things to do with their time. A sobering center could save the officers thousands of hours in a year in terms of shortening the time it takes to take someone, who is not being a pain in the neck, off the street to a place of safety. It would also save the jail, the court, the d.a., and (yes) me, lots of work. And of great interest to the students and parents of SBCC and UCSB, it would help ensure that the people who are investing big bucks (and lots of time) getting their degrees wouldn't graduate with the sandbag of a criminal conviction (or a record of a booking, for that matter).

As I've written, repeatedly, Penal Code section 647(g) makes a "civil commitment", when feasible, State policy.

Like it or not, more than 90% of UC and SBCC students will drink to excess at least once (if not weekly) during their academic career. This is a societal problem that will take more than punitive tactics by local law enforcement to solve. Criminalizing our most promising societal contributors for socially acceptable (if not appropriate) conduct makes no sense and is arguably against State policy. A sobering center is a viable and practical solution to the public safety, fiscal and civil liberties questions this societal problem raises. It's time for more than lip-service.