GALLUP, N.M. – A western New Mexico county is developing a new court aimed at helping people convicted of drunken driving and drug offenses, officials announced.
McKinley County Magistrate Court is drafting plans for a DWI drug court to aid offenders in becoming sober and to reduce repeat criminal activity, the Gallup Independent reports.
Officials with the county’s Administrative Office of the Courts said the details of the program have yet to be sorted out, but the program will be molded over the next month to suit the needs of McKinley County. Officials said the county hopes to accept clients in mid-to-late February.
Robert Mitchell, senior statewide program manager for Problem Solving Courts, said drug courts have been the most researched criminal justice intervention program for the past 20 years and the evidence shows they work. But they are not a complete solution to decreasing alcohol-related offenses.
“One thing we do know is just arresting people doesn’t work,” Mitchell said. “We see people come through our system over and over again. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Drug courts are just one tool in the toolbox.”
According to statistics provided by Mitchell, drug courts are twice as effective in reducing recidivism than sending an offender to prison while being four times less expensive than prison.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Traffic Safety Division is funding the program for its first three years.
Shanell Franklin, the new drug court coordinator, said one of the roles of the court program is to help offenders discover their self-worth.
“One of the biggest things that they face is looking in the mirror and not liking what they see,” she said. “Our job is to place the mirror in front of them and help them to see themselves as they should see themselves, to see the potential, to give them the hope they need to move forward in their lives.”
Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie said she’s excited and nervous about the new program.
“We’re going to make an impact on these individuals and ultimately the entire community,” Yazzie said.