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November 1, 2006
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State 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 Results”.

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. DADP’s “Best 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 and implemented.

Clearly, counties 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.

Law enforcement's 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 up.


Common Sense for Drug Policy
California Society of Addiction Medicine
California State Association of Counties

Read commentary from Oliver H., a Prop 36 graduate.

Get the Facts
Over a dozen Proposition 36 fact sheets are available for download. Topics include: the Effectiveness of Drug Treatment, Drug Courts/Deferred Entry, and the California Correctional System.
breakdowns of the 2000 initiative votes
For background on the Prop. 36 campaign and other votes nationwide for drug policy reform, see:

Contact Lists
County Lead Agencies
and Contacts
Parole Region Contact
Probation Contacts



Drug Policy Alliance · (916) 444-3751 · [email protected]