Conference Pushes Best Practices
Under Prop. 36,
most nonviolent drug possession
offenders now have the option of
drug treatment and probation in
lieu of incarceration. In just the
first five years of the program,
during which time funding for drug
treatment was guaranteed, more than
60,000 Californians completed treatment
and taxpayers saved more than $1
billion. In fact, Prop. 36 has become
the largest and most successful
treatment program for methamphetamine
abusers in the country.
But we know that
Prop. 36 could be even more effective.
In their annual reports on Prop.
36, researchers from the University
of California at Los Angeles have
again and again identified areas
of improvement for Prop. 36 implementation.
Improvements include speeding the
process from court to treatment,
putting people in appropriate care
(not the cheapest), enhancing cultural
competency among treatment providers,
and making narcotic replacement
therapy available for those with
opioid dependence. These and other
program enhancements are identified
in the Drug Policy Alliance’s
five year review of the law, “Proposition
36: Improving Lives, Delivering
Rather than acting
on the research to improve the program,
however, the California Department
of Alcohol and Drug Programs (DADP)
has stayed silent on the matter.
Practices” page online
has been blank since the law was
implemented in 2001.
Although it is
long overdue, the DADP deserves
credit for finally bringing counties
together to discuss best practices.
This is just the beginning, however.
The onus is on the department to
see that counties follow through
and that best practices are identified
can be learning from one another.
The statewide Prop. 36 completion
rate averages 34%, but the top 20
largest counties managed a completion
rate that averages 43%—all
without the use of jail sanctions.
determination to transform Prop.
36 from a primarily rehabilitative
program to a more punitive one has
dominated the conversation long
enough. This singular focus on jail
meant that other changes to the
program—ones that would actually
improve outcomes—were ignored.
With the jail sanctions debate now
in court, the conversation has opened