[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
August 1977

Decriminalization of Public DrunkennessThe Response of Suburban Police

Author Affiliations

From the Legal Medicine Unit, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, and the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston. Dr Daggett is now with the McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(8):937-941. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770200075007

• In 1973, Massachusetts abolished the crime of public drunkenness, with the intent that many of the persons who formerly had been arrested on this charge would now be treated at detoxification centers. We studied the effects of this law in the Boston suburbs, with an emphasis on the police response. We found that there has been a paradoxical increase in drinkingrelated jail cell detentions, and that the police and detoxification centers are dealing with two essentially different and unrelated populations. Police and detoxification officials agree that the suburban detoxification system is irrelevant for dealing with most of the public intoxicants whom the police have always dealt with and whom they continue to deal with.