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Drunk tank proposal chugs along

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

An intergovernmental working group is gradually bringing more clarity to the once-blurry proposal for Austin’s first drunk tank. On Tuesday, Roger Jefferies, county executive for the Travis County Justice & Public Safety Department, gave the Commissioners Court an update on the group’s progress. Jefferies said that the consensus is leaning toward the idea of recommending that a special local government corporation be created to run the joint operation between Travis County and the city of Austin. Jefferies also suggested that a so-called sobriety center could be set up inside a county-owned building in downtown Austin at 1213 Sabine St. That space is expected to become free when its current occupant, the Medical Examiner’s Office, moves into new digs in Northeast Austin as early as January 2017. Among the features at the ME’s building that make it “perfect” for a drunk tank, according to Jefferies, are its “drains on the floor, a sally port for drop-off (and) separate space for women.” The question of funding the construction and operation of the sobriety center is still up in the air, and Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who sits on the working group, warned his colleagues that it won’t be cheap. However, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt added that savings could be reaped over time by reducing recidivism of chronic alcoholics. Jefferies told the Austin Monitor that he expects to give the commissioners another update sometime in the fall, if not earlier.

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