Press Release November 2, 2008
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at (213) 291-4190 or Tommy McDonald at

Today, the Children’s Defense Fund — California (CDF-CA) endorsed Proposition 5, a ballot initiative that Californians will vote on next Tuesday. If passed, Prop 5 would provide $65 million per year to counties to make drug treatment available to at-risk youths under the age of 18. Virtually no publicly-funded treatment is available now for young people.

“The Children’s Defense Fund supports Prop 5 because it would implement strong policies that would provide treatment and services to youths instead of arresting and incarcerating youth for minor drug offenses,” said Deena Lahn, Policy Director of CDF-CA. “Putting more and more of California’s children behind bars costs taxpayers too much and isn’t an effective crime prevention tool. If we stop arresting children for problems that are more effectively addressed through early intervention and treatment, it will benefit every community across the state. Prop 5 is the right policy for California youths.”

Currently, only 10 percent of California youth who need treatment actually receive it. In 2006, there were more than 15,000 juvenile arrests for misdemeanor drug offenses. Low-income youths–frequently the group most at risk–are often first arrested and processed into the juvenile justice system before receiving any form of treatment; even then, youth programs are often inadequate.

Under Prop 5, parents, teachers and doctors could all refer young people directly to these health services without the need for a criminal justice intervention. Research shows that adolescent treatment is effective in reducing arrests, improving academic performance and keeping youth in school. Prop 5 ensures that the new system of care meets the full spectrum of youths needs, including family therapy, educational and employment stipends and more.

The Children’s Defense Fund–California joins the League of Women Voters of California, California Nurses Association, California Federation of Teachers, Consumer Federation of California, California State Conference of the NAACP and National Council of La Raza, among others, in endorsing Prop. 5.

For more information about Proposition 5, visit

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

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