40,000 Signatures to be Filed With DC Board of Elections for Drug Treatment Instead of Incarceration Initiative

Press Release July 2, 2002
Media Contact

Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

The DC Campaign for Treatment — a District-based organization formed for the purpose of promoting treatment and other alternatives to help drug offenders — will turn in nearly 40,000 signatures on Monday, July 8 in support of Measure 62, the “Treatment Instead of Jail for Certain Non-Violent Drug Offenders Initiative of 2002.” The Measure is expected to appear on DC’s November ballot. If passed, this initiative would allow substance abuse treatment rather than incarceration for eligible non-violent, first or second time offenders charged with simple possession or use of certain drugs in DC.

“This initiative is going to help District residents struggling with addiction get the treatment that they need,” said Bill McColl, President of the DC Campaign for Treatment and Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “It will keep residents here in the District with their families where they belong. Similar initiatives have increased treatment in California and Arizona and it will work in the District too.”

The Campaign has collected more than double the amount of signatures needed to qualify the initiative, demonstrating a willingness of DC voters to look for alternatives to incarcerating people in need of drug treatment.

Signatures are being gathered for similar “treatment instead of jail” initiatives in Michigan and Ohio for the November ballot, while another has been approved in Florida for 2004.

DC’s Measure 62 is modeled after California’s Proposition 36 (2000) and Arizona’s Proposition 200 (1996). California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated prior to passage that Proposition 36 would divert over 36,000 non-violent drug offenders to treatment annually, saving California taxpayers approximately $1.5 billion over the next five years, and preventing the need for a new prison scheduled for construction. In just one year since the passage of Prop. 36, California has increased the number of licensed and certified substance abuse slots by 68%. Similarly, Proposition 200 in Arizona has diverted 2,600 drug offenders into treatment and saved Arizona taxpayers $2.56 million during its first year of implementation and over $6 million in prison costs within its second year, according to a study by the Arizona Supreme Court.

“It just makes sense to treat drug addiction as the health issue that it is, instead of wasting millions of taxpayer dollars trying to incarcerate our way out of our drug problems,” said Katharine Huffman, Director of State-Based Projects at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Measure 62 is being sponsored by the DC Campaign for Treatment — a collaborative effort of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting sensible alternatives to the war on drugs, and Campaign for New Drug Policies, a national organization aimed to reform drug laws and policies.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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