Jail for 'D and D'?

Sep 7, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

The City of Riverton is about to make public intoxication a so-called "jailable" offense.

Some might view it simply as a crackdown on the drunk and disorderly residents of the community, but actually that's not the motivation.

Municipalities in Wyoming are created and sanctioned by the State of Wyoming, and if there is a state statute on a particular matter, then, basically, any municipal rule on the same issue has to match it.

As reported inWednesday'sedition by staff writer Dan Bendtsen, the state of Wyoming permits drunk and disorderly individuals to be jailed. Riverton's ordinance did not go that far, so, the Riverton City Council is authorizing a change. At the moment, the maximum penalty for "D and D" in the city is a fine. Soon it will include the possibility of a jail sentence.

But that is only part of the transaction. Having a jail sentence on a judge's list of options also opens up other possibilities which actually could be used to benefit individuals.

There's no great desire to fill the jails with people whose only offense has been becoming intoxicated in a public place or on private property where they are not wanted.

What Riverton has learned, however, is that actually having a jail ordinance on the books opens up possibilities for dealing with the D and D that would not exist otherwise.

One, for example is probation. You can't really have probation from a fine, but you can as an alternative to jail. So, instituting a new ordinance permitting a jail term also would permit a judge to recommend probation.

It turns out the same is true for some types of mandated substance abuse assessments, outpatient treatment, and other alternatives to jail that might be better for an individual than a term behind bars. Under state statute, such measures can be recommended as an alternative to jail - but only if the city has a jail ordinance as well.

The City of Riverton decided sometime ago that its official policy on dealing with the small but visible population of chronic drunk and disorderly residents is to try to help them more than punish them.

Oddly enough, having the capacity to put them in jail will make that easier.

Our city shows vision and compassion in its approach to these individuals, who are citizens of our community. The planned ordinance may look harsh on paper, but it broadens our community's ability to deliver a humane response to something that is against the law but can't really be called a crime.

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