Culturally Sensitive Counseling, In and Out of Jail, Shows Promise in Navajo Area

Evaluation of a drunk driving prevention program for first offenders

Investigators at the University of New Mexico (UNM) studied the effectiveness of the San Juan County DWI Facility to deter drunken driving in San Juan County, N.M.

The study evaluated the facility as a sentencing option for first-time offenders, as well as the effect of adding a Victim Impact Panel (VIP), where offenders hear about the experience of victims of someone else's, or their own, drinking and driving.

San Juan County had the highest frequency of DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenses in the state and had the second-highest rate of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in the United States.

Key Findings

The San Juan County DWI facility, which was started in 1994, incarcerates offenders for 28 days. During that time, offenders participate in various assessment and treatment activities, and they then enter a two-month aftercare period of regular alcohol intervention components. Many elements of the program have been modified to be culturally sensitive to the 70 percent Navajo client population.

  • An analyses of traffic safety data strongly indicated that the program deterred further drinking and driving. For those who were not part of the treatment group, the probability of being rearrested was significantly greater; the magnitude of difference was approximately 18 percent.
  • Results from the pretest and the follow-up posttests show that the SJC-DWI program also changed participants' perceptions about drinking and driving and their future intentions concerning it.
  • The Victim Impact Panel component did not contribute to the overall impact of the program. Among program participants, there were no differences between VIP and non-VIP groups.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $50,000 to support this work from October 1996 to March 1999.