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Since Prop 36 took effect in July 2001, the law has helped over 150,000 Californians enter drug treatment and improve their lives and the lives of their families. There is one group we—and our legislators—don’t hear from enough: Prop 36 graduates.

Oliver H. is one of them. After drinking and drugging for over three decades, he graduated from Prop 36 treatment and probation in San Diego in 2005. Read his story here. Prop 36 drug treatment, not jail, helped turn around his life and the lives of many of his friends. Here, read what he thinks about Prop 36 and how grads can give back.

Have something to say in response? Let Oliver and us know on our comments page or by contacting him directly at [email protected].

Untitled Document

Forever Making a Difference

California’s treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, Prop 36, has helped over 140,000 people enter drug treatment since it came into effect in 2001. In the same five-year period, the program has saved taxpayers between $800 million and $1.3 billion, according to independent research conducted by UCLA and the Justice Policy Institute.

On July 1 2006, initial funding of Prop 36 drug treatment ends. The Governor and Legislature are now debating the refunding of Prop 36 drug treatment. Despite its success, the future of Prop 36 is uncertain.

In this commentary, Oliver H, a Prop 36 grad from San Diego, talks about the wide-reaching impact of Prop 36 and why the cost and life savings that result from the program will continue to grow…

Prop 36 is changing more than just the people, like me, that finish the program. For the bigger picture of how Prop 36 works, we have to look beyond graduation day. First, Prop 36 makes us grads into positive members of the COMMUNITY. As we Prop 36 grads become productive members of society again, maybe even for the first time, we become hard working. By paying taxes we will be giving back to our local communities and to the state of California. We are also law abiding. For some of us, this is the first time we are actually a plus for the neighborhoods we live in.

Second, we keep GIVING BACK TO RECOVERY. Prop 36 grads often go back to our respective recovery homes or outpatient facilities, letting others still in the program know that life on the other side is wonderful! As alumni, the most important thing is to give back, helping those who cannot yet help themselves. It keeps me "clean and green", meaning that it keeps fresh in my mind just what it was like for me. I wish that kind of pain and suffering on no one. You can always hear about how people have turned their lives around, but people actively in Prop 36 need to see just how successful we grads are! I know for me when I go back to my house I always go back to the dorm, to rub the bedpost where I lay lost and confused, not knowing if I’d make it through all the pain and hard work that was ahead of me.

Then, last but not least, we have OUR FUTURE. After treatment and aftercare we as graduates take what we have learned, go back to our families and loved ones, and educate them. Teaching our children and grandchildren the advantages of living a clean and sober life, instead of the self-destruction and horrors of alcohol and drug addiction! My family is small, but I have two grandchildren and a niece who’ve never seen me intoxicated or loaded on drugs. I'm always reminding them that I’ve done all the research on this subject, and that there’s nothing out there when it comes to this kind of life style! If our children and grandchildren are talked to enough, educated enough about the personal failures and consequences behind the use of drugs and alcohol it will make it much harder for this disease to find new recruits.

So I encourage everyone to stop for a minute and think just how far the cost for one person going through Prop 36 really goes. To put it simply, you take a minor-case drug offender, divert them from prison to treatment, and give them the tools they need to turn their life around. You help them find the faith and courage it takes to walk down a new avenue, one of change and hope! Now that’s Prop 36 and that’s FOREVER MAKING DIFFERENCE!

  Choose a Commentary
Drumming Up Support
Forever Making a Difference
A Day in Sacramento
Changing Our Future
Grads Reaching Out to Young Artists
One Year As An Advocate




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