Prop 36 Update
to a friend
April 9, 2002
This is an updated and summarized
version of the Substance
Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 Progress Report
released by Drug Policy Alliance in March 2002.
California's Proposition 36 took
effect on July 1, 2001 after 61 percent of California
voters passed the initiative in November 2000. Since
July 1, Proposition 36, or the Substance Abuse and
Crime Prevention Act (SACPA), has been diverting low-level,
non-violent drug offenders convicted solely of possession
for personal use into community-based treatment instead
of incarceration. While it is too early to determine
the ultimate success of this program, this update
describes how the state and counties are implementing
Conversations with county administrators
and key stakeholders in the Proposition 36 implementation
process have been crucial in gaining an understanding
of how the initiative is working thus far. Early indications
suggest that Proposition 36 is being implemented well
in most of the state. The initiative has begun fulfilling
its promise to reduce drug addiction and crime rates
by diverting offenders to drug treatment, and saving
California taxpayers many millions of dollars by reducing
the state's jail and prison population.
How many people have received
treatment so far?
As of March 1, 2002, 13,695 individuals
had been referred to treatment under Proposition 36
in the six counties examined for this update. In those
counties, 9,334 individuals were still active in treatment.
The average number of clients active in treatment
ranged from 53% to 78% of the total number of referrals,
with a combined average of 62% -- a higher than average
number, according to treatment experts. Several factors
could explain those who were not active, including:
waiting to be assessed and placed into treatment;
being in between programs; or non-compliance (see
Failure to Appear at Treatment).
number of referrals
number of clients active in treatment
of referrals active in treatment
Several thousand more people are
also currently receiving treatment throughout the
state's other 52 counties.
Prior to its passage, the state's
independent Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) predicted
that by treating rather than incarcerating low-level
drug offenders, Proposition 36 would save California
taxpayers approximately $1.5 billion (net) over the
next five years, and prevent the need for a new prison
slated for construction.2
According to the state's 2001-2002
budget analysis, it costs $25,607 per year to imprison
each inmate in California.3
The average cost of drug treatment in California is
approximately $4,000 per client. While exact figures
are not yet available, it is reasonable to presume
that Proposition 36 has resulted in considerable cost
savings to the state already, with over 9,334 individuals
diverted to treatment instead of jail.
The experience of Arizona's Proposition
200, an initiative similar to Proposition 36 enacted
in 1996, provides reason for optimism about Proposition
36's anticipated cost-savings.
According to a recent report conducted
by the Supreme Court of Arizona, Proposition 200 saved
Arizona taxpayer $6.7 million in 1999.
Decrease in Prison Population
An observed decrease in California's
prison population may be attributable, in part, to
the effectiveness of Proposition 36 in diverting individuals
from incarceration into treatment. The population
of inmates incarcerated by the California Department
of Corrections statewide decreased by 4,101 inmates
between June 30, 2001 and January 6, 2002. During
the same time period in 2000, the year before SACPA
began, that population decreased by only 1,214 inmates.4
Although this decrease is not due exclusively to Proposition
36, the number likely reflects the impact of the initiative.
Unique Collaboration Between Criminal
Justice & Public Health Agencies
Successfully implementing Proposition
36 has fostered a unique collaboration between criminal
justice and public health agencies at the county level.
Never before have such distinct agencies worked so
closely together on such a large scale. The Community
Substance Abuse Services Division in Contra Costa
County, for example, collaborates with the probation
department at the County Probation Recovery Gateway
Unit -- a case management function made up of representatives
from probation as well as treatment staff. The Unit
enables the client to access services in short order.
Additionally, Contra Costa County's Proposition 36
Task Force, which meets regularly, includes the lead
agency, prosecutors, public defenders, treatment providers
and users, so that the needs of all interested parties
- Retroactivity: The first
and perhaps biggest legal issue to reach the courts
regarding implementation of Proposition 36 concerned
the extent to which its sentencing provisions apply
to non-violent drug possession offenders who committed
their crimes prior to July 1, 2001, the effective
date of Proposition 36. A unanimous ruling by the
2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles in
October 2001, In re Delong, held that Proposition
36 applies to persons convicted of a qualifying
crime, but not yet sentenced before July 1, 2001.5
- Drug paraphernalia: Originally
Proposition 36 did not specify whether or not defendants
charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, but
not drugs, would be eligible for treatment under
Proposition 36. In August 2001 in an unpublished
opinion, the California Supreme Court Appellate
Division ruled that drug paraphernalia possession
offenders would indeed be eligible for treatment
under Proposition 36.
- Drug testing: Senate Bill
223, signed by Governor Gray Davis October 10, 2001,
clarifies that when Proposition 36 clients are drug
tested, the results of the drug tests "shall be
used as a treatment tool" rather than to punish
the client. To this end, it requires that drug test
results "shall be given no greater weight than any
other aspects of the probationer's individual treatment
program." In other words, individuals cannot have
their probation revoked simply for a positive drug
test. SB 223 also allocates $8 million of federal
block grant funds to be used by the counties for
drug testing Proposition 36 clients.
While implementation of Proposition
36 has been overall true to the voters' intent, there
are a few troubling trends. These concerns come out
of numerous discussions with key stakeholders from
affected communities, and the fields of law enforcement,
drug treatment and the judiciary.
- Methadone: Early reports
indicate that Proposition 36 clients are not being
placed in methadone maintenance programs - the proven
most effective treatment for heroin and other opiate
addiction - consistent with the level of demand.
This trend has been attributed to systemic biases
against narcotic replacement therapies and lack
of provider contracts with the counties to provide
methadone services. The State Department of Alcohol
and Drug Programs should increase its effort to
educate members of the criminal justice system -
especially judges and probation officers - on the
proven effectiveness of methadone and other narcotic
- Mental Illness: Many clients
referred to substance abuse treatment have co-occurring
mental health and substance abuse disorders. Unfortunately,
many of the Proposition 36 assessment professionals
are not adequately trained to detect such coexisting
disorders. There is also a dearth of programs to
treat both psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.6
- Sober Living Environments:
Sober living facilities can help individuals in
recovery by allowing them to live among a community
of peers who are also in recovery. Unfortunately,
even before the passage of Proposition 36, such
facilities were not required to be licensed, nor
has there been a statewide authority responsible
for monitoring the quality of such facilities.
- Diversity of Treatment Options:
There is a shortage of drug treatment programs that
address a diversity of needs, including those that
are cultural, ethnic or gender related. There is
also insufficient funding to support vocational
and literacy training, family counseling and other
holistic services necessary to provide effective
rehabilitation for low-level drug possession offenders.
to Appear at Treatment: Some counties have had
high rates of client "no-shows" to treatment. Among
the reasons cited by informants include poor communication
with the client, lack of transportation and denial
of treatment enrollment due to lack of paperwork.
To help increase the rate of compliance in such
cases, clients should be provided with assistance
when it comes to filling out paperwork; and be given
clear and concise directions in their primary language.
- Need for Open & Public Meetings:
It is essential that the communities who are most
impacted by Proposition 36 -- especially drug users
and their families, who have been historically isolated
from the drug treatment infrastructure-be made part
of each stage of Proposition 36 implementation through
open and public meetings.
Though it is still too early to assess
the full impact of Proposition 36 on California's
economy and substance abuse treatment needs, early
reports demonstrate that thousands of non-violent
possession offenders have already been diverted to
treatment instead of jail, as intended.
Some concerns exist, such as lack
of access to methadone maintenance for those who are
addicted to heroin; lack of facilities to treat those
suffering from substance abuse and mental illness;
and a need for greater communication between decision-makers
and those who are most affected by Proposition 36,
such as drug users and their families.
Overall, Proposition 36 is being
implemented true to California voters' intent. It
has already started to reduce drug-related crime by
providing access to sorely needed treatment services,
preserve precious law enforcement resources for violent
criminals, and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
1. The Sacramento numbers are as
of March 2, 2002.
2. California Legislative Analyst's
Effect of "The California Safety and Crime Prevention
Act of 2000" [sic] (1999)
Analyst's Office, Analysis of the 2001-2 Budget.
4. California Department of Corrections,
Data Analysis Unit, Monthly Report of Population.
These numbers were found by examining the numbers
from the Department of Corrections Institutions (not
including Camps, Community Correctional Centers, Department
of Mental Health State Hospitals, Parole, Non-CDC
Jurisdiction inmates, and inmates-at-large) during
each of the dates mentioned.
5. In re Delong, 93 Cal. 4th 562
(Oct. 31, 2001)
6. According to data from the
National Institute of Mental Health survey, researchers
found 53 percent of persons with drug problems had
a psychiatric diagnosis not involving drugs.