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Crime File: Drinking and Crime

NCJ Number
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Publication Series
This video cassette, number 8 in the Crime File Series, considers the relationship between alcohol abuse and deviant behavior, with particular attention to driving under the influence (DUI); a panel discusses the effectiveness of legislation and treatment in reducing alcohol abuse.
The moderator states that statistics show drinking to be involved in more deaths than guns and heroin, although he acknowledges that it is not necessarily the direct cause of these homicides. In a filmed interview, Jeanette Spencer, a correctional alcohol counselor, comments that persons under the influence of alcohol lose their faculties of judgment and conscience so that they engage in deviancy not characteristic of their personalities when they are sober. Also described are police efforts in Montgomery County, Md., to deter DUI through random roadblocks to check drivers' blood-alcohol levels. In the panel discussion, Barry Sweedler, Director of the Bureau of Safety Programs of the National Transportation Safety Board, argues that tough and certain sanctions could be effective in deterring DUI but notes that lenient arrest practices and plea bargaining soften the law's deterrent effect. Panelist Mark Moore, a professor at Harvard University, notes that States which have raised taxes on alcoholic beverages and limited its accessibility have experienced a reduction in alcohol consumption, auto fatalities, and alcohol-related diseases. Robert Niven, of the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, argues that alcoholism and alcohol abuse can be treated, but treatment success depends upon matching a person's abuse condition with appropriate treatment methods. The panel also discusses the relationship between treatment, criminal responsibility, and punishment for the alcohol abuser, as well as public policy for dealing with public drunkenness.

Date Published: January 1, 1984