Thursday 28 October 2010

The 24/7 Sobriety Programme

In South Dakota, they are tackling alcohol-related anti-social behaviour by a novel approach that they call the 24/7 Sobriety Program: breathalysing offenders twice a day, every day, morning and evening. If they don't turn up, they'll be arrested. If they show any alcohol in their system, they have to wait for 15 minutes when they are tested again. If they fail a second time, they are taken into custody, all their possessions are taken from them and they are put in prison clothing. Then a judge will decide how long to imprison them: 24 hours to a week, depending on the person's history. More details are on the BBC website - click here - with a short video news report.

Why am I reporting this here? Because the scheme has caught the attention of politicians here in Britain, who could be just daft enough to give a try. It might be operable in small, rural American towns, but I can't see how it could transfer to our more heavily populated towns and cities, which are geographically much closer together than American towns. And with cut backs, where will they find the police officers to chase up those who don't turn up? The police can't keep up with those who breach their ASBOs now.

The London mayor is considering applying the scheme to certain drink-related crimes such as drunken violence. Predictably, the BBC website then goes on to quote government stats:

"In July 2010, the UK Home Office reported that the total cost of alcohol-related crime and disorder to the UK taxpayer was estimated to be between £8bn and £13bn per year. And in 2009, almost one million violent crimes were alcohol related, with a fifth of all violent incidents taking place in or around a public house or nightclub."

What is the net cost of alcohol-related problems after alcohol tax and duty are taken into account? And I note that 80% of all violent incidents don't take place in or around a public house or nightclub.

I'd be surprised if any schemes like this see the light of day over here, but you never know!


  1. This idea was comprehensively demolished by Al-Jahom here. Nothing I can add, really.

  2. I agree: it's a comprehensive
    demolition job.

    South Dakota has a land area about 80% of the UK, but a population that's smaller than Birmingham. With our population density, I don't see how such a scheme wouldn't collapse within days over here. Unless they just dragged in just enough harmless inebriates to meet arbitrary targets.

  3. And demolished from a more left-wing perspective in the Guardian too.

  4. It's an intriguing idea if it cuts down on the frankly hideous drain on NHS resources over-drinking can cause.

    And if my experiences of northern brewing from this evening are anything to go by, this shouldn't be necessary in the region higher up the map than Sheffield because I wouldn't want to indulge excessively in this stuff anyway.

  5. The prison system is seen as a cure for all kinds of things in the US-- the mentally ill and poor are often criminalized this way as well. This doesn't surprise me but I could never see it being implemented here!

  6. I hope you're right, Impy, but we're now into populist politics, so who knows what might happen.


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