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University partners with local judiciary system in alcohol-related court practices

By ThisIsReno

The end of Alcohol Awareness Month is fast-approaching, as is the academic school year, but the University of Nevada, Reno’s efforts to curb underage alcohol abuse is never-ceasing.

The University has partnered with Reno’s judiciary and court system to address the frustrations from judges and local public attorneys in dealing with alcohol-related cases for the 18- to 20-year-old population. This age group, especially within the past eight years, is responsible for a significant number of minor in possession and consumption cases, as well as providing alcohol for youth under the age of 18.

“The problem of underage drinking is a huge one, especially within the University community,” said Reno Municipal Court Judge James Van Winkle. “Prior to the inception of the BASICS and OnTRAC programs, we did not have the appropriate tools to deal with the underage, university student abuser of alcohol. These programs now give us the appropriate tools.”

Reno judges have agreed to pilot uniform and consistent sentencing practices to help create a unified approach to adjudication of on- and off-campus alcohol-related violations. The change in court practices will be evaluated for one year to determine effectiveness of the court-appointed programs and their impact on reducing alcohol-related crimes and recidivism rates of this youth population.

“One of the challenges for University administrators is enforcing alcohol laws and sanctions for students where college authorities and University Police Officers have limited jurisdiction,” said Carol Millie, code of conduct officer in the University’s Office of Student Conduct. “Currently, University student conduct policies are written only for those behaviors occurring on campus or at University-sponsored events.”

The pilot program will include mandating campus-based intervention programs such as BASICS, or Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students. BASICS is an alcohol assessment and education program for first-time student offenders and increases enforcement of drinking laws around the campus and surrounding neighborhoods. OnTRAC is a more intensive alcohol and drug treatment program for repeat offenders. “Do the Ride Thing” campaign is a University-sponsored reward system for designated drivers who choose not to drink and drive. Local retailers, such as the Little Waldorf Saloon and Pub N’ Sub are supporters and participants in the campaign. And most recently, the University launched a late-night coalition, providing more late-night, positive activities as alternatives for students.

These efforts are supported by an Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) Program grant totaling $900,000 over three years. The EUDL Program grant, presented through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, was awarded to the University and Join Together Northern Nevada, a community coalition that shares the goal to deter underage drinking.

To read more about Reno’s efforts to address college drinking, go to http://www.udetc.org/documents/judicial/0310eNews/Reno.pdf. For more on the EUDL Program, visit http://ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/programs/ProgSummary.asp?pi=17.

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