First Study of Prop. 36 Shows State Saved

California's treatment-not-jails law for nonviolent drug offenders
placed 30,469 people in treatment programs during its first year,
according to its first official audit.

University of California, Los Angeles, researchers - chosen by the
state to track results of Proposition 36 of 2000, the Substance Abuse
and Crime Prevention Act - reported Wednesday that:

- - About half those offenders were getting treatment for the first

- - Eighty-six percent went into outpatient drug-free programs, 10
percent into long-term residential programs and the rest into other

- - About half cited methamphetamine as their main problem, about 15
percent cited cocaine or crack and about 11 percent cited heroin;

- - About half were white, about 31 percent were Latino and about 14
percent were African American, while 72 percent were men;

- - Proposition 36 clients were just about as likely to stay in
treatment as other people.

The study covers all of California for the year ending June 30,

The participation is notable considering how local agencies had to
cooperate on planning and administration; assessment coordination;
offender treatment and supervision; training; and troubleshooting,
said Douglas Longshore, a behavioral scientist and the study's lead

"Despite the challenges and ongoing concerns over funding, most county
representatives offered favorable reports on local implementation," he

Proposition 36 allows adults convicted of nonviolent drug crimes and
meeting certain other requirements to be sentenced to probation with
drug treatment instead of imprisonment. Also eligible are some
probationers or parolees who violate drug-related conditions of their

The report says state courts found 53,697 drug offenders eligible for
Proposition 36 placement in that first year, of whom 44,043 - 82
percent - chose to participate. Of those, 37,495 - 85 percent - had
their needs assessed and 81 percent of those - 30,469 - entered
treatment. The study noted that to have 69 percent of offenders who
opt for it in court actually enter treatment is a good "show" rate
compared to other drug treatment referral studies.

"The UCLA study proves that Proposition 36 works," said Daniel
Abrahamson, the law's co-author and the Drug Policy Alliance's legal
affairs director. "Tens of thousands of people who were previously
denied treatment are getting it; hundreds of millions of dollars are
being saved. And as a result, individuals, their families and their
communities continue to get healthier."

The UCLA study didn't gauge the law's fiscal impact, but the Drug
Policy Alliance tried to do so by assuming about three quarters of the
37,495 people assessed for treatment otherwise would've gone to county
jails for an average of 23 days, and the rest would've gone to state
prison for an average of 16 months.

Based on a $28,000 annual cost of incarceration, they figured
Proposition 36 helped avoid an average cost of $10,640 per offender -
about $399 million total - less $120 million in treatment costs, for
a net savings of about $279 million.

The state Legislative Analyst's Office had predicted savings from
Proposition 36 wouldn't top $250 million until the law's third or
fourth year, Abrahamson noted. "We've exceeded those predictions in
the first year."

Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jul 2003
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers