New DUI Court Helps Native Americans

An Albuquerque, New Mexico court is taking bold and progressive steps in stopping Native Americans from committing DUI.

The newly established Urban Native American Drug Court uses nine months of treatment and supervision instead of incarceration to deter alcoholism. In order to qualify, each defendant must be Native American and have been convicted of more than two DWIs.

“The idea is to try to incorporate some of the traditional beliefs into healing and wellness,” Judge Maria Dominguez said.

Officials said the biggest challenge is a fear of losing their spirituality. David Lente, a Native American substance abuse counselor in Albuquerque, provides the therapeutic component of the program by integrating activities cultural activities, like talking circles and community service projects. The hope is to reconnect Native American defendants with the positive aspects of their culture.

Court officials said drug court, as a whole, is a much more effective tool than jail time. They said only 6 percent of those who participate end up getting arrested again for drunken driving.

My opinion? This program is an excellent progressive step forward. Typically, alcohol abuse is symptomatic of something much worse taking place within the abuser. They may be suffering with physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual health issues and using alcohol to self-medicate. Kudos to Judge Dominguez in the continued success of this program.