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October 31, 1966

Sober Reflections on Imprisonment of Alcoholics

JAMA. 1966;198(5):563-564. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110180107037

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To the Editor:—  I would like to offer some sober reflection on your editorial "Recent Court Decisions Regarding Imprisonment of Alcoholics" (197:582, 1966).The hospital with which I am associated is located a few short blocks from Wall Street, the world's wealthiest financial district, and a few blocks from the Bowery, the world's most famous skid row. I am unaware of any "insurmountable social and administrative barriers" to the medical care here of alcoholics from any stratum of financial or social life, yet astonishingly few alcoholics ask for medical help. The reasons are simple. The employed alcoholic is fearful that his employer by accident might learn of the reason for his admission. The skid row alcoholic has entirely different reasons.The Bowery is a community of lost souls, lost without each other. When advised that admission is necessary for truly medical reasons, the Bowery inhabitant is more likely to