Sobering center opens up


Photo from

Mayor Annise Parker joined council members on Thursday to unveil the innovative Houston Recovery Center, a place where people who are intoxicated can sober up instead of being arrested. Officials say there’s only one other similar facility in Texas.

“Turns out that a significant percentage of the people we were putting in jail, were there for being generally inappropriate in public because they were under the influence of some sort of substance,” Parker said. “I don’t need them in my jail, and they don’t need the criminal record. They need help.”

Anyone brought by police to the 24-hour “sobering center” on North Chenevert Street in downtown will stay a minimum of four hours and leave without an arrest record. Recovery support specialists trained to deal with people suffering from substance abuse addiction will also offer exit counseling.

“The center will provide a kind of forced intervention and education experience for those who enter the doors,” said Leonard Kincaid, the recovery center’s director of operations. “What we will do is lead them on a pathway to recovery.”

Only those who have committed no other crimes and have no outstanding warrants will be given the option by police officers to be taken to the facility. Once there, they must clear health screenings, surrender belongings and wait to be sober.

The city spent $3 million in voter-approved public safety bonds to renovate the warehouse and will pay Star of Hope Mission $1.5 million a year to lease and staff the facility.

Two rooms were built to house 84 men and women separately. A sleeping cot and basic linens will be provided, but as Kincaid said, the facility was designed for safety, not comfort.

See here, here, here, here, and here for the background, and here for the Mayor’s press release. Besides being a good idea in its own right, opening this facility is a necessary step towards getting the city out of the jail business. I understand that there is progress being made on a joint city-county processing center, which is the other purpose of the city jail, and if all goes well that could lead to the eventual closing of the city jail. One point to keep in mind is that the Harris County Jail is no longer overcrowded, which was an obstacle to doing this kind of partnership in the past. They didn’t have enough room for their own inmates, so there was no question of taking on someone else’s inmates. That’s no longer an issue. I’m hopeful this project can proceed to its logical conclusion. Swamplot has more, and via Council Member Ed Gonzales you can see some photos from the inside of the center here.

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7 Responses to Sobering center opens up

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I hope this works. However, since,

    “Only those who have committed no other crimes and have no outstanding warrants will be given the option by police officers to be taken to the facility.”

    I highly doubt it. Being a substance abuser leads to criminal activity. They go hand and hand. I suspect the real motivation with this as with the no sharing ordinance is

    “The city……..will pay Star of Hope Mission $1.5 million a year to lease and staff the facility.”

    Over the years I have dealt with alot of P.I.’s. In my opinion this will not slow the process. Now instead of the Police telling the intoxicated person to call a friend or getting a friend to take them home. (happens alot on the street) They will say I am taking you to the star of hope. (no option on the part of the intoxicated person). To think that this will cut down on P.I. arrests is like saying Police will focus on more important things then tickets because they have red light cameras.

    We shall see.

  2. Ross says:

    Paul, no one ever said it would cut down on the number of arrests or detentions. It will nearly eliminate the use of the jail as a sobering center for those folks who don’t have someone to take them home, and greatly reduce actual charges for PI. Which is as it should be. Merely being drunk or high should not result in a criminal record. If the drunk/high person is causing problems, then there’s always the disorderly conduct charge that applies.

  3. Paul Havlak says:

    Between this and the declining prison population mentioned in your other post, what great new about less reliance on imprisonment!

  4. Paul kubosh says:

    Ross, I hope I am wrong. I am also a little miffed at star of hope supporting the feeding ban. Have a good weekend.

  5. Steven says:

    This method should greatly reduce the number of people arrested by city officers since they have traditionally arrested many thousands of people a year for PI (chicken and egg theorists will understand the logic). It will also discourage officers that used to book PI’s in their substation jails far from downtown from making the trip, especially now that a police report needs to be generated for the offense. As with anything, the more hoops you put in front of workers, the less likely they will engage in said action.

    As far as the motivation for the Star of Hope to support city ordinances, they already received a lot of support from the city in a variety of ways but I’m sure the rebuild of facilities and additional funding helped massage those opposed too. Ether arrest or this process are preferable to what our founding fathers used for drunkards, but someone will always complain.

  6. Paul Kubosh says:

    I must admit I love the kuff’s blog.

  7. Pingback: The next step to closing the city jail – Off the Kuff

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