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NCJ Number: 69922 Find in a Library
Title: Sleeping It Off in Gallup, NM (New Mexico)
Journal: Corrections Magazine  Volume:6  Issue:4  Dated:(August 1980)  Pages:16-21
Author(s): P Katel
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 6
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The decriminalization of alcohol in New Mexico and the prohibition of alcohol on Navajo Indian Reservations contribute to public policy issues on the treatment of alcoholics in general and Indian alcoholics in particular.
Abstract: In Gallup, N.M., as many as 150 inebriates are held in protective custody each night. Many deaths in the Gallup area are known to be related to intoxication; in 1979, 114 of the 277 people who died unattended by a physician in McKinley County, were intoxiciated. The 1973 New Mexico protective custody law (based on the Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act, a model law drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws) exempts inebriates from the minimum standards set by the courts for the treatment of prisoners because the drunk tank inmates are never formally arrested. After living conditions in the old drunk tank were declared unconstitutional by Federal court, a new facility replaced the lice-ridden and dirty blankets and mattress of the past with concrete floors, wooden benches, and one toilet and one water fountain. Though some New Mexico lawyers sympathetic to the inmates contend that 'protective custody' is just a euphemism for arrest and that the court rulings therefore apply, neither the law nor the conditions of the drunk tank have ever legally been challenged. Yet Gallup officials, sensitive about the city's reputation, contend that their program prevents the deaths of inebriates that occur from exposure and other alcohol-related injuries. Alcoholism is believed by some to be the Navajo's major social and health problem. Estimates of the numbers of Indian alcoholics in the Gallup area are given from the hundreds to the thousands, although the police chief believes that despite appearances, the drinking problem is no greater among Indians than among other citizens. Yet one survey suggests that more than 70 percent of the Navajos (compare with only 29 percent of the general pupulation) do not drink at all. Those who deal with Indian alcohol abuse call for the lifting of prohibition on the reservation in the belief that only if liquor is allowed on the reservation will Indians learn to drink in moderation. It is widely believed in the Gallup area that prohibition remains because bootleggars who supply illegal liquor to the reservation are powerful in tribal politics. The tribe devotes none of its $25 million annual budget to alcohol rehabilitation programs although tribal leaders assert they are aware of the problem of alcoholism. Suggested solutions include recriminalization of public drunkenness, extension of the mandatory detention period and increased alcohol treatment programs and facilities.
Index Term(s): Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Indian affairs; Indian justice
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