Is the Journal Drunk? (I Certainly Am.)
Prom night, 1999: I was arrested by the Cape Girardeau police department at the Victorian Inn where a very boring party had been taking place. Down at the station, I got a "minor in possession of alcohol" charge and was photographed wearing pearls and a lovely corsage.
The next day, us eight arrestees made the paper—our names, ages, addresses and what we were charged with in ink for all the townspeople to read. While I have no shame or regret about my tango with the authorities—in fact I find it funny—I still consider it twisted that the Southeast Missourian felt compelled to print high school students' addresses.
Upon seeing a recent Saturday issue of the Albuquerque Journal, the disgusted feeling attached to this puritanical tar and feathering rose from my gut. On Oct. 18, the ever tactful daily contained a special insert, a legal advertisement paid for by the Albuquerque Police Department.
The ad's header, curiously in quotes, reads "Guilty DWI Offenders" and looms over a gallery of mug shots accompanied by names, ages, towns, blood-alcohol contents and violation dates. While fortunately the Journal didn't go so far as to print addresses, the paper did advertise the public service announcement on newspaper boxes days in advance. That's like flyering for a public flogging.
(Coincidentally, a front page headline on the same issue read "Drinking, Voting Don't Mix: Drunken woman with bottle of vodka passes out at polling site, police say.")
For the people I showed the ad to, it was primarily a source of voyeurism if not all out schadenfreude. Obviously the intent is to deter potential DWI offenders through public humiliation, but the result is cheap entertainment for Journal readers. In fact, for the past 18 months these ads have been printed as part of a city ordinance—it’s the law. That's your tax dollars hard at work, folks.
If a newspaper or the city is going to trouble itself with this exercise, wouldn't the community get more benefit from seeing the faces of more purposed criminals? Let's see the guy who masturbates at girls on the street, or the burglar who wants to break in and steal all of my booze and pretzels.
Even if drunk drivers are putting me in harm's way, seeing their faces does nothing to help me avoid them. Does making an example of these offenders deter DWI? Outside of the debatable fairness of punishing those convicted beyond their legal sentences, publishing this crap is no solution. It's trashy, and it exemplifies New Mexico's unusual fascination with drunk driving.
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