Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Teenagers And Alcohol

Even though they cite the wrong reasons, Tuscaloosa leaders are right to maintain that minors shouldn’t be jailed for simple alcohol possession.

They say jailing the youngsters on misdemeanor charges creates bad publicity and has a temporary negative effect on business.

The real concern should be about the jailed youths. In many cases, throwing them into jail for a misdemeanor offense is almost certain to produce lasting negative attitudes and mindsets.

We don’t downplay the importance of curbing underage drinking. But in most cases, it would be much better to issue a citation to minors in possession of alcohol and channel those who need it into treatment and education programs.

City police officers now give citations that order minors in possession of alcohol to appear in municipal court. The minor is jailed only if he or she is intoxicated.

Unfortunately, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has chosen to take a harder approach. State ABC board administrator Emory Folmar, the former gun-toting, tough-talking mayor of Montgomery, is adamant that the only responsible option for dealing with people under 21 in possession of alcohol is to put them in jail, regardless of their level of intoxication.

Folmar says public safety is an issue because the youngsters could be involved in an accident. He also accuses the city of dumping the problem in ABC’s lap “so they don’t get blamed for something that happens to Junior out on the Strip."

Folmar’s hard-nosed tactics are likely to breed nothing but fear and resentment. There’s a much more intelligent, effective way to handle the problem.

source: Tuscaloosa News

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