On May 25, the New York Times published an in-depth look at Drug Induced Homicide Laws (DIH), intended to punish people with sentences equivalent to those for manslaughter and murder for providing or purchasing drugs which resulted in an overdose death. Though states started enacting these laws in the 1980s, there has been a gradual increase in their application over the past 15 years. The current opioid crisis has created a trend of legislators and prosecutors passing and utilizing these laws as they search for ways to deter opioid use. After reading the article, I conducted an informal survey on a small group of my friends, family, and significant other. I explained the premise of the laws, which now exist in at least 36 states. Those around me saw the logic, if they were used to punish kingpins of drug trafficking rings. But as the New York Times article pointed out, the sad reality is that these laws are not being used against kingpins. Instead, they are being used to target the family members, friends, and significant others of those who have died from overdoses. I posed the question, “What if I overdosed one Friday night and you got sent to jail for murder?”
In tribal communities throughout the United States, alcohol-related crime and death are immense concerns for citizens. While exploring ideas on how to decrease the high rates of alcohol and substance use by Native American populations for National Drug Court Resource Center, I came across several programs that the Navajo Nation is implementing to combat drug and alcohol problems. In an effort to learn about these initiatives, I got in touch with and interviewed a member of the Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation.