Drunk tanks 2.0: how will it work?

Boris Mendelevich explains in detail why the bill on the revival of sobering-up stations is needed and who will be taken there

Drunk tanks 2.0: how will it work?
Photo: нижнийновгород.рф

On January 1, 2021, the bill on the revival of the system of paid sobering-up centres came into force in Russia. Boris Mendelevich, State Duma deputy from Tatarstan, psychiatrist, tells about the specifics of this process and who will still be taken to sobering-up centres in the author's column for Realnoe Vremya.

“Shelter for the intoxicated”

According to open sources, every year between 8,000 and 15,000 Russians freeze to death while drunk. And there is a huge number of crimes committed under the influence of alcohol. So, in 2020, every third crime in Tatarstan was committed by drunk people. “Drunk” citizens are also involved in crimes from another side: many of those who fall asleep on the street in a state of intoxication become victims of robbers.

Until now, a drunk person could only be taken to a hospital. But not all of them need the help of doctors. Not to mention that during the reception of a drunk citizen, really sick people are waiting for their turn. In the end, the activities of medical workers are paid from the budget, that is, from our taxes. So, it is necessary to create a system in which doctors are engaged exclusively in their own business. That is why the Duma came up with the proposal to “reanimate” the sobering-up centres. Initially, it was assumed that people who do not need medical care as such, but who are in danger, helpless, and who need to “survive” this condition somewhere, would be sent there.

The history of sobering-up centres in Russia is very rich. It is believed that the first of them appeared in the early nineteenth century in Saratov, Kiev, Tula. They were comfortably called “shelters for the intoxicated”. They were used to deliver drunks who had fallen asleep on the street. In the shelter itself, a person was examined by a doctor, he was given the opportunity to sober up. The drunk tank gave food, treated if necessary, and the poor were even given clothes.

The first experience of creating a sobering-up facility was successful — in the first year of operation of this institution, the street death rate of drunks decreased almost twofold. Subsequently, the experience was scaled to all major cities of the country. In the history of the new Russia, the last sobering-up station was closed in 2011.

And now they have decided to revive them again, but in a new format.

Photo: deita.ru
Until now, a drunk person could only be taken to a hospital. But not all of them need medical aid

How it will work

In December 2020, Vladimir Putin signed bills on the restoration of regional sobering-up systems in Russia. The adopted bills allow the subjects of the Russian Federation to create sobering-up centres on the basis of public-private partnership, and police officers — to deliver drunk citizens there.

On the one hand, the initiative itself is important and necessary. The goal is to protect a person from serious health problems, and even from death. One should understand that sobering-up centres are not a replacement for existing medical facilities.

Drug treatment dispensaries, emergency departments in multi-specialty hospitals will work as before and will provide assistance if necessary. Besides, it is assumed that if family members complain of a person in a state of intoxication, then law enforcement officers will have the right to take him from home to a sobering-up facility.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. As a rule, sobering-up centres are on the balance sheet of municipalities, which need to find money for their maintenance somewhere. The question is what will serve as a source of additional funding and whether there will be any corruption risks. To prevent these risks, we need clear and understandable documents from the relevant authorities.

For example, it is no secret that alcohol affects each person individually. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, one person will fall down like a sheaf, and the second will calmly reach the house and there, perhaps, even have time to work. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly prescribe the procedure for delivering persons who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs to sobering-up centres. All points of this process should be interpreted exclusively unambiguously. This is important so that the implementation of the idea does not discredit it.

The ministry of internal affairs of the Russian Federation has recently published a draft of the rules for delivering drunk people to sobering-up centres, medical organisations or police offices. In this project, there are principles by which they will take away the “customers” of sobering-up centers.

In one of the points, there is a wording that it is necessary to deliver to detoxification centres persons who “have lost the ability to move independently or navigate in the surrounding environment”. But, in my opinion, this is a very vague formulation. I believe that specific points should be spelled out.

For example, the lack of opportunities for independent movement can be extended by a situation where a person can get hypothermia or frostbite. Another point may be a violation of public order (aggressive behaviour, fighting, etc.). Third, in my opinion, the reason to take a person to a sobering-up centre can be the presence of visible wounds or injuries, because in a state of intoxication, they probably will not assess the situation adequately.

Photo: rg.ru
The ministry of internal affairs of the Russian Federation has recently published a draft of the rules for delivering drunk people to sobering-up centres, medical organisations or police offices

In short, the bill has been adopted, but it is necessary to bring to mind the bylaws and regulatory documents. Only if they are worked out in sufficient detail and, most importantly, unambiguously, this law, I am sure, will save thousands of lives in Russia.

By Boris Mendelevich