Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at 213-291-4190 or Tommy McDonald at
Sacramento — California’s 58 counties are in line to receive almost $90 million in federal funds for community-based drug treatment and probation supervision. Local advocates applauded the investment in crime prevention, which is expected to reduce recidivism and associated criminal justice costs, and called on the Legislature to repeat the investment in next year’s budget.
In 2010, Los Angeles County, the state’s largest county, will receive $10.6 million for community treatment and $11.2 million for probation supervision, according to the California Emergency Management Agency, which administers the distribution of these annual federal funds. The State Legislature has yet to determine how to spend the next batch of these federal resources.
“Investing in the front-end of California’s public safety continuum is good for public safety and the budget. Alcohol and drug treatment reduces problematic drug use and prevents crime, which means fewer crime victims and lower costs throughout the criminal justice system — from policing and courts to incarceration and re-entry,” says Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California.
As drug treatment funding is slashed and probation departments struggle to provide adequate supervision, advocates are concerned that the county-level crime prevention network is breaking down. Individuals on felony probation who do not succeed — many of them with untreated drug problems — are sent to prison at a cost to taxpayers of $49,000 per person per year. In contrast, drug treatment and probation cost a fraction of that amount.
“It’s essential that California maintain community services like drug treatment in order to prevent crime and cut costs. More federal dollars are coming to California. The question for the Legislature is simple: do we want to spend $5,000 for drug treatment and probation or $50,000 for a year in prison? Drug treatment can make the difference between success and failure for many people. Let’s keep investing in success,” Dooley-Sammuli continued.
The federal funds came to California through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. In the next few months, California will receive another $35 million in federal JAG funds and the Legislature will determine how to spend it. Advocates are urging the Legislature to direct these new monies to treatment and probation systems in order to prevent crime and cut costs. According to UCLA researchers, each $1 invested in California’s ten-year-old, voter-approved treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, Proposition 36, cuts state costs by $2-$4.