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.
While Texas is famous for the abuses of its criminal justice system, it has also produced a number of sensible ideas for reforms, such as this one.