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Media Articles - 2000s

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16 December 2003
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Drug Abusers May Be Sentenced to Sauna

Albuquerque Journal
November 20, 2003

SANTA FE -- Inmates with substance abuse problems could spend time in saunas as part of a treatment program the state is considering.

The program, known as Second Chance, originated in Mexico and Corrections Department officials want to try it here, they told members of the Legislature's interim Corrections Oversight and Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday.

Officials are seeking an $800,000 federal grant to pay for a pilot version of the program, which involves detoxifying, educating and giving inmates vitamin supplements as part of their stay.

The program could work at the state's Roswell Correctional Center, said Deputy Corrections Department Secretary Lawrence Trujillo.

The state currently is adding 72 beds to that facility, which it plans to use for DWI offenders, he said. The expansion could be complete in March. The legislature earlier this year approved more treatment and tougher penalties for repeat drunken drivers.

"One of the biggest problems we have is alcoholism," he said.

The sauna idea is only part of the program, on which legislators saw a video during the meeting.

Lawmakers seemed receptive to the idea, which proponents say cleanses addictive substances from a person's system.

"The whole concept of removing toxins from (the inmates') bodies, that's got to have some weight for use when we have such a horrible substance abuse problem," said Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque.

Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest, agreed the program could be therapeutic, but said he'd like more information.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved a joint memorial directing the department to seek federal funds for the program.

Criminal justice officials plan to visit Puerto Rico in December to look at a similar program.