Outlawing Binge Drinking

December 21 2004, 7:02 AM

It is never a good idea to respond with legislation to a limited series of events, no matter how tragic. The criminal justice system was not meant to cure societal ills. But Colorado legislators have fallen prey to the illusion that tougher criminal penalties will curb the excessive drinking habits of college students.

Both Republicans and Democrats are considering binge-drinking legislation. One bill would increase penalties for providing alcohol to a minor from a class-2 misdemeanor to a class-1, with six to 18 months jail time and fines up to $5,000. A keg-identification bill could help track adults providing alcohol to minors. Another bill would offer safe haven or some immunity from prosecution for a person who calls 9-1-1 to save a drunken friend.

Not one of these bills address the root cause of the problem. Not one offers treatment options to students. Not one funds a study of the allure of binge drinking or how to combat it from a sociological perspective. It's the same old "lock 'em up" mentality. It's never worked before and it won't work this time. Get these legislators back to the drawing board.