Originally created 12/26/05

UGA decides to put underage drinkers in jail



ATHENS, Ga. - Starting next year, underage students caught drinking at the University of Georgia will be arrested and sent to jail.

The change represents a tougher stance on underage drinking after years of simply giving out citations.

The new policy is aimed at changing campus culture and increasing students' sense of responsibility, UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said.

"What I want is that someone think about their actions," he said. "I'm not running a Gestapo."

Chief Williamson said he hopes the stigma of being arrested and jailed will deter students from the excessive drinking that can lead to other crimes.

"Being cuffed and sent to jail will be a little more of a memorable experience (than a citation)" Chief Williamson said.

UGA police started issuing citations instead of arresting students in 1998 after parents complained about the way students were treated when arrested, university spokesman Tom Jackson said.

But the citation policy "is not working very well," so UGA police are returning to the old policy, the one followed by Athens-Clarke County police, Mr. Jackson said.

Students are more often cited off campus, but officials said they want to do their best to eliminate alcohol-related misconduct and raise the bar for the kind of culture the university wants to reflect in the community.

Kathryn Keith Sims, the executive director of Safe Campuses Now, said she is excited about UGA's new policy.

"This is a wonderful step," Ms. Sims said.

She said that she noticed a difference after Athens-Clarke County police started arresting students for underage possession a few months ago and that she hopes for a similar effect at UGA.

Some students complain that the policy is unfair but concede it will probably make them think twice about drinking on campus.

The new policy will lead to a lot more arrests before it has any effect, said freshman Kevin Beyer, 18, of New Orleans.

"I think they should preach responsibility and not punishment," he said.