Drug Czar Backs California Prison Guards, Opposes Unified Treatment Community

Press Release October 20, 2008
Media Contact

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

SACRAMENTO — President George W. Bush’s drug czar today announced his opposition to Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA), which will expand access to drug treatment for young people and nonviolent offenders — and make rehabilitation a priority of the state corrections system once again.

“The drug czar is going against the whole of California’s treatment and prevention community to line up with law enforcement. We have tried incarceration as a primary response to addictive illness for decades and failed utterly,” said Dr. Judy Martin, president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine. “The treatment field enthusiastically supports Prop. 5 because it marks a historic shift away from the drug czar’s failed approach and towards a proven one – treatment.”

“The drug czar’s rhetorical support for treatment is obviously just a fig leaf for the same old law enforcement approach. This hardline drug czar from a lame-duck administration is now opposing California’s entire treatment community,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy campaign manager of Yes on 5. “Back in 2000, the previous drug czar opposed Prop. 36 and that didn’t matter to voters. It’s hard to imagine President Bush’s drug czar having any more influence.”

Supporters of Prop. 5 include the League of Women Voters of California, the California Nurses Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the Consumer Federation of California — among many others. Opponents are overwhelmingly law enforcement organizations, with $1 million in with funding from the California prison guards union.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office calculates that Prop. 5 will lower incarceration costs by $1 billion each year and will cut another $2.5 billion in state costs for prison construction. This doesn’t include savings related to reduced crime, lower social costs (e.g. emergency room visits, child protective services, welfare), and increased individual productivity.

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

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