My colleague Paul Burglin wrote an excellent op-ed column last Sunday in the Marin Independent Journal. In it, he argued that throwing a repeat offending DUI defendant in jail has little chance of addressing the underlying cause of the behavior. What is necessary is intensive in-patient treatment as an alternative to jail confinement. Jail should be used as the stick to encourage the individual to accept the treatment.
According to Mr. Burglin, “You put an alcoholic in jail and they want one thing when they get out: They want a drink.” If a person comes back to the justice system with two, three, four, or more DUIs he is clearly not making a rational decision to drink and drive. His addiction is forcing him to make a decision that he knows
will have disastrous consequences to them. If you put him in jail for 90 days he will stay sober for 90 days. If you put him in a 90 day residential treatment program you will give him the chance
to remain sober for a lifetime.
Mr. Burglin is also right about his view that resistance to treatment is a byproduct of the electoral process in many California counties. He talks about a second offender getting 96 hours in jail. When I was a prosecutor in Orange County, it was considered standard for a second offender to get 180 days. A third offender would usually get one year. The DA could then tell his constituency that he was getting tough on DUI.
Kudos to Mr. Burglin for raising his voice to the “touch of crime” mentality. Perhaps such thinking will lead to more “smart on crime” policies in the future.
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