header3There has been a lot of misinformation floating around about the A.S. Legal Resource Center (LRC) fee increase initiative. It’s been great to hear the universal support for the service, but discouraging to consider the criticisms that are not completely accurate. The inclusion of the Sobering Center Program into the fee increase seems to cause the greatest concerns among students, so clarification is important for students to make informed choices.

The fee increase will fund three LRC projects, programs and costs of the LRC. First is the operation costs of the LRC. We have operated on $1.80 each quarter for Fall, Winter and Spring since 2007. Our costs have increased even though we have been in the same location since 2006. To continue offering the level of service we are providing, and to plan for the future so we do not need to request another fee increase for several years, the fee for operations would be increased to $3.00 per student all year around. We can stay in our current, off-campus, convenient and discrete location, and offer 30 available hours each week to meet with students with this increase. Our statistics support this level of service, as the number of consultations increases whenever we add office hours.

The second expense is the community access Self-Help Legal Center which was launched with Isla Vista Tenants Union this summer, and is located downstairs in the Pardall Center. There is no other justice center open to the Isla Vista community located here or in Goleta. The nearest legal resource center for community members is located downtown at the courthouse, and is accessible to all of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria community members. This can be quite inconvenient for many people who live and work out here, and who do not have transportation to go downtown or time to take the bus during work hours. There was a need to provide access to the legal system and self-representation resources for Isla Vista community members, so this space was created. The costs involve rent, computer equipment, maintaining a current library of self-help books and attorney time to assist with forms.  Of the fee requested, $0.50 would support the Self Help Legal Center.

The third expense is the Sobering Center Program. The LRC would take on the oversight of the Sobering Center Program, with a student advisory committee determining the operation guidelines and expenses. The mission of the Sobering Center Program is to provide an alternative to jail for students needing a safe place to sober up and ensure education and deterrence through alcohol programs. The purpose of the drunk in public law is public safety, not punishment. People are not arrested because they are criminals; rather, they are deemed by law enforcement to be unsafe to themselves or others. If the police had an alternative to jail they would use it in many cases. As it stands, they have to make a judgment call on whether an intoxicated person should be hauled to jail (a.k.a. the “drunk tank”) or left to fend on their own if their sobriety is borderline. Currently, approximately 50 percent of I.V. drunk in public arrests are not prosecuted in the courts, which has watered down any deterrent effect of an arrest.

Besides dodging court and a conviction, students are missing opportunities to be educated about alcohol intoxication and excessive drinking, and a repeat is likely to occur because they fall through the cracks. People who are arrested for drunk in public are generally not fall-down, passed-out, obnoxious drunks. From the ones we talk with at the LRC most seem to be separated from their friends at the wrong time, and are vulnerable because of intoxication. That is their “sin.” The fee for the Sobering Center program is $3.00, decreasing each year as administrative fees for the program will allow for it to be self-sustaining in the future. It is an insurance policy, just like for your health or auto because you never know when it’s going to be needed. No one goes out at night with the intent of getting arrested. No one.

Robin Unander says “vote yes on the LRC fee increase initiative.”