ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE)- A county program aimed at keeping repeat DWI offenders off the streets is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Since it began in 1997, more than 4,800 people have entered the DWI Recovery Court Program and 3,200 have gone on to graduate. The program serves as a way to help repeat offenders recover, specifically those with a second or third DWI offense.

Judge Edward Benavidez, who oversees the program, says less than 6.5 percent of graduates re-offend. Benavidez says it costs much less to have someone in the program than it would if they were incarcerated.

“It’s $121 a day to have somebody at MDC versus $21 a day to have somebody going through the Recovery Court Program,” Judge Benavidez said.

He estimates that over a one year period, with about 130 participants in the program, it would save taxpayers nearly $3 million.

“The cost savings versus incarceration are just so tremendous that it really does make sense to get as much funding into the program so we can serve more people,” Judge Benavidez said.

Benavidez adds that while the program is mostly funded federally, a drop in state funding could result in fewer people being able to enroll in the program. That’s why he’s asking the state legislature to keep this program as a priority.

Officials will be celebrating the 20th anniversary Thursday morning with remarks from Judge Benavidez as well as two participants who have graduated from the program.