No. XIV (1987)

The excessively drinking men and their work (contribution to discussion on the act of dealing with persons evading work)

Zofia Ostrihanska
Institute of State and Law of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Irena Rzeplińska
Institute of State and Law of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Published 1987-06-16


  • man,
  • abuse,
  • alcohol,
  • work,
  • rehab,
  • addiction,
  • education,
  • sobering-up center,
  • detention,
  • problem,
  • employment,
  • treatment

How to Cite

Ostrihanska, Z., & Rzeplińska, I. (1987). The excessively drinking men and their work (contribution to discussion on the act of dealing with persons evading work). Archives of Criminology, (XIV), 115–150.


The article presents the findings of a study on the problems of alcoholism related to the Act of 26 October 1982 on dealing with persons evading work.

The Act defines the phenomenon of the so-called social parasitism as evading socially useful work and having sources of maintenance contradictory to the law or principles of social coexistence. Men aged 18-45 who have not been employed for at least 3 months, who do not attend any school and are not registered in an employment agency as looking for a job, are obliged to report at the local State administrative agency and to explain the reasons of their unemployment or failure to learn. A nonfulfillment of this duty is a transgression for which a penalty of limitation of liberty of up to 3 months or a fine of up to 50,000 zlotys is provided. There are certain categories of persons who are not liable to this duty: among others, these are the retired or disabled persons, those who receive allowances from the social security fund etc. The reported men are entered in a record of persons evading work. In the case of their further persistent evasion of work, they are liable to further proceedings and various sanctions. They may also be recognized as unemployed for socially grounded reasons. Towards such persons, the Act provides no further special duties, and the administrative agency is obligated to come to their assistance if necessary.

            In the present paper, the important problem of whether the legal regulation of the problems connected with the so-called social parasitism is justified, has not been discussed. We have focused on the relation between unemployment and excessive drinking and on the problems and disturbances in employment among excessively drinking men.

            The study was aimed at answering the following questions:

  1. What is the number of persons with alcohol problems, repeatedly detained in the sobering-up station, among the men registered in District Offices in Warsaw as "evading work"?
  2. What is the number of unemployed persons aged 18-45 among those repeatedly detained in the sobering-up station?
  3. What is the relation between employment and work on the one hand, and excessive drinking and the entire life situation on the other hand among the above-mentioned men?

            The following three groups of men have been included in the study:

A. In order to obtain the answer to the first question. records of 2,195 men were examined who had been registered in the seven District Offices in Warsaw within the period from January 1. 1983 till April 30. 1984 as evading work, and their detentions in the sobering-up station were checked.

B. The second group of the examined persons consisted of all men aged 18-45 who had been detained in the sobering-up station for at least, the second time on randomly selected days in October and November of 1984 and in January of 1985 (576 persons). Information concerning their employment was obtained from the .records of the sobering-up station based either on their own statements or on entries in their identity cards.

C. The third group consisted of 56 patients of the sobering-up station aged 18-45 who had repeatedly been detained; they were examined individually in the period from October 1984 till January 1985.

            The examination consisted in a free interview based on a specially constructed questionnaire. The aim of the interview was to obtain information concerning the course of employment and the drinking habits of the examined persons. their possible symptoms of dependence and withdrawal treatments they underwent, family situation and state of health.

            From among 2,195 men registered as evading work. one-third had been detained in the sobering-up station at least once. As many as two-thirds of them had been detained repeatedly. A part of the registered men (6.9 per cent) were included at a later date in the list of persons who persistently evade work. Persons detained in the sobering-up station constitute 37 per, cent of those included in the record.

            Employment of patients of the sobering-up station was examined in the second of the above-mentioned groups: the 576 men aged 18-45 repeatedly detained in the Warsaw sobering-up station.

            Among those patients men aged at least 30 predominated (76.9 per cent). Those detained at least four times were the most numerous (45.5 per cent); there were 20.6 and 33.9 per cent of those detained three and two times respectively. According to expectations, older patients had been detained in the station more frequently than the younger ones.

            At the moment of detention in the station, the majority of the repeatedly detained persons (60.6 per cent) were employed at State enterprises; 10 per cent worked for private employers, and 1.4 per cent in their own workshops or farms. 5 per cent were pensioners, 8:3 per cent worked casually, and 14.6 per cent were not employed at all. Therefore, the category of persons who did not work or who worked only casually constituted 22.9 per cent of the examined group, which seems rather a high percentage. It grows still if the category of pensioners is added. amounting then to 27.9 per cent of men aged 18-45 repeatedly detained in the station and to as many as 34.7 per cent of those detained over three times.

            56 persons were examined individually. They were somewhat older than the above-mentioned group of 576 patients of the sobering-up station and had been detained there for a smaller number of times.

            The essential problem in our study was their drinking of alcohol. 36 per cent of the examined persons stated they had started drinking at the age of 16 at most, while in the case of 33.3 per cent the respective self-reported age was 17-18. As many as two-thirds admitted usually dinking half a litre or more vodka on one occasion. 34.8 per cent admitted drinking daily. It was most difficult to find out whether the examined persons were already alcohol dependent. There were question included in the questionnaire and asked during the interview, that served this purpose. Some of the examined persons were afraid even to admit they drank excessively which was due to the type of work they performed in which abuse of alcohol is not tolerated (first of all in the driver’s profession). Symptoms indicative of dependence were found in 24 of the examined persons (42.9 per cent). A part of them had already started withdrawal treatment in the past, yet they frequently gave it up after as few as several visits. The detention in the station and talks conducted with the patient on release were noticed to be an opportunity for initiating a change in his attitude towards treatment. It seems that the sobering-up station may and should be an important link in the alcohol dependence  treatment system.

            Basing on the appraisal of the entire course of employment, the examined group could be divided into two categories: A. those in the case of whom undisturbed performance of work and its regularity was found according to the information obtained (22 persons); B. those who  had been unemployed for long periods of time, worked irregularly, at intervals, and failed to perform work properly (31 persons).

            In the category A, two subgroups were distinguished: a. men who usually did not drink excessively or who abused alcohol but to a slight degree, who worked regularly and were relatively well socially adjusted. Their repeated detentions in the sobering-up station seemed to result from various chance situations and from their poor tolerance  of alcohol; b. men who regularly abused alcohol or who could have been dependent on it, in whom however this situation did not influence their performance of work.

            In the category B, it was not possible to distinguish any subgroups. In individual cases, joint occurrence of some of the following overlapping problems was found: a. poor performance of work related to excessive  drinking, yet without the symptoms of professional degradation; b. professional degradation connected with alcohol dependence; c. poor performance of work and excessive drinking connected with and resulting from an early social maladjustment; d. unemployment accompanied by a declared reluctance to work in the future which was connected rather with the examined person’s personality traits than with his excessive drinking; e. unemployment due to disability resulting from an accident or illness which made it impossible to perform the former job. Such a situation could have been brought about by excessive drinking, and the present unemployment is a factor that increases these persons alcohol dependence.

            Among 2,195 men registered in the Warsaw District offices as evading work, there were 708 patients of the sobering-up station of whom two-thirds had been detained repeatedly. As shown by an analysis of their statements made at the District offices, the reasons of their unemployment varied greatly.

            An observation seems justified that the majority of them do work, though irregularly. Among then, 115 were recognized to be unemployed for justified reasons; a very small part of them (20 per cent) asked for assistance of the administrative agency in finding a job through the Employment Department.

            The group of 708 patients of the sobering-up station consists of men who may at least be assumed to drink excessively However, the officials who keep the records were poorly informed as to this problem. Further, despite registration and activities of the department for unemployed persons to compel these persons to work' as many as two-thirds of men in this group failed to take a job.

            Any action undertaken towards this specific group of men (who were repeatedly detained in the sobering-up stations and were excessive drinkers), proved entirely ineffective, both at the stage of compelling them to work regularly and at that of having them perform public works.

            From among 708 men – 26.1 per cent were directed to public works; about three-fourths of them never even reported at work.

            The intervention undertaken by means of the Act of dealing with persons evading work seems futile. Some of these persons may perhaps need referring to an alcohol dependence treatment unit, some others - counselling as to the choice and finding of an adequate job; still another part will probably constitute a regular group that is characteristic of any society: u group of persons who constitute a social fringe and live in a way that departs from the norms of conduct accepted in the society.


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