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Still Winning with Drug Treatment,
Not Jail Initiative
UCLA Study Documents Two Years of
Alliance Calls Californias
Prop 36 a Model of Safety and Compassion
for the Nation
Gant (916) 444-3751 or Tony Newman
groundbreaking drug treatment instead
of incarceration initiative, Proposition
36, has yielded excellent results in its
first two years of implementation, according
to a state-commissioned study
from the UCLA, released on Thursday, September
23, 2004. The report details impressive
rates of successful treatment outcomes,
steady increases in the overall number of
people diverted to treatment, and continued
opportunities for first-time drug treatment
The UCLA evaluation
once again confirms the wisdom of the
voters who passed Prop. 36, said
Judy Appel, Attorney with the Drug Policy
Alliance. Theyve shown the
nation a new and better way to treat addiction,
reduce crime and save a lot of money at
the same time.
Appel added, Prop.
36 offers two things that the drug wars
excessively punitive policies have never
delivered -good results and a brighter
future. Its no surprise that other
states are already following Californias
Prop. 36 passed with
61% support in 2000. It requires that
people convicted of nonviolent drug possession
receive drug treatment instead of incarceration
for their first two nonviolent drug possession
offenses. According to the UCLA study,
more than 66,000 people were diverted
to drug treatment in the programs
first two years. Comparing costs of a
year of drug treatment and probation supervision
to the astronomical costs of incarceration,
the Drug Policy Alliance estimates savings
of hundreds of millions to the state budget.
According to the UCLA
report, conducted by researchers at the
universitys Integrated Substance
- Prop. 36 clients are
succeeding in treatment at rates similar
to those of clients in other diversion
programs, such as drug courts, even
though, on average, they have longer
histories of drug addiction. (Drug courts
use more costly, punitive and invasive
measures to coerce people into complying
with treatment, including incarcerating
participants early in the process of
recovery for a single failed drug test.)
- Prop. 36 opened the
door for many non-violent drug users
to enter drug treatment for the first
time. In each of the first two years
of implementation, about half of Prop
36 clients were entering drug treatment
for the first time.
- In the first year
of Prop. 36s implementation, 30,469
people entered treatment. In its second
year, 35,947 entered treatment.
- A majority of Prop.
36 participants referred to treatment
received at least 90 days of treatment.
Treatment experts generally consider
90 days to be adequate time to achieve
The study also highlighted
several areas in which implementation
of Prop. 36 could be improved. The report
found, for example, that many individuals
are still not being referred to the specific
kind of treatment programs they need.
Few Prop. 36 clients received methadone
maintenance treatment, which is considered
the gold standard for treating opiate
addiction (according to the National Institute
of Health, among others). Treatment completion
and duration would likely improve for
heroin-using clients, the authors predicted,
if methadone was available.
Prop. 36 advocates agreed
with the reports recommendations
that treatment outcomes could also be
further improved if funding were expanded
for residential treatment programs for
the most severely addicted clients.
Supporters anticipated the growing evidence
of the initiatives success would
also prompt an escalated "backlash"
campaign by special interest groups who
have opposed Prop. 36 since it was on
the ballot in 2000.
"When you make a
change as historic and effective as Prop.
36, you're going to threaten the budgets
and influence of groups who did well under
the old system of taxation and incarceration,
said Glenn Backes. But Californians
have now seen what it means to get smart
on addiction and smart on crime, and its
too late to go back to the bad old days.
Supporters of Prop. 36
are confident that any effort to undermine
the initiatives funding or tamper
with its effective implementation will
ultimately be unsuccessful, since Prop.
36 is more popular than ever with California
voters. According to a recent poll sponsored
by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency
and conducted by the Field Research Corporation,
73% of California voters would now vote
for Prop. 36, up from the 61% of voters
who passed the initiative in 2000.
"Anyone who really
values public safety and wants a prudent
budget is a fan of Prop. 36," said
Backes. "It's helping thousands of
people turn their lives around and become
productive citizens, and freeing up lots
of money that can now be spent to improve
schools or for more effective law enforcement.
Californians should be very, very proud.
the Evaluation of the Substance Abuse
and Crime Prevention Act 2003 Report
the Prop 36 Fact Sheet
ATTENTION TV JOURNALISTS:
Upon request, Drug Policy Alliance may
provide you with A
New Way of Life, a video production
documenting the process and implementation
of Proposition 36 with clients, judges
and treatment providers.
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