A reinforcement contingency management system for ten chronic public drunkenness offenders was evaluated for short-term effects. Chronic inebriates were provided with required goods and services through skid row community agencies contingent on their sobriety. Intoxication resulted in a five-day suspension of all goods and services. Excessive drinking behavior was assessed by direct observations of intoxication and by randomly administered breath alcohol analyses.
As a result of this intervention, subjects substantially decreased their number of public drunkenness arrests and their alcohol consumption, and increased their number of hours employed. No such changes were observed in a control group that received services on a noncontingent basis. Longer-term research studies of one to two years rather than a few months would be required before any widespread use of this approach would be warranted.