Dave Fratello at (310) 394-2952 or James May at (916) 444-3751
SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes continuing California’s landmark, voter-approved drug treatment-instead-of-jail program in his 2006-07 budget. However, the Drug Policy Alliance said today that the $120 million proposed by the governor for Proposition 36 drug treatment programs is not nearly enough to deliver quality treatment to the 36,000 people entering the program each year.
Dave Fratello, a co-author of Prop. 36, said, “The governor clearly sees that the success of Prop. 36 in treating tens of thousands of people argues for continuing the program. And he clearly appreciates that investing in Prop. 36 saves the state money.”
“Unfortunately,” Fratello said, “he has not looked closely enough at the real needs in this area. The level of funding the governor proposes is more than $18 million less than was spent on Prop. 36 last year. This reduction would result in a cut in drug treatment services in many counties. If counties must cut back, the types of treatment and duration of treatment for many clients will be limited, which inevitably lowers success rates.”
“What’s worse,” Fratello continued, “inadequate funding and lower success rates mean jeopardizing the savings this program generates when people are successfully treated instead of being incarcerated. The governor must revisit this budget to improve outcomes from Prop. 36 programs.”
The Drug Policy Alliance suggested that the governor’s proposed funding represents as much as a $63.9 million shortfall to meet the range of needs in treatment, support services and criminal justice supervision for the 36,000 or more clients enrolling in Prop. 36 programs each year.
“Put simply,” Fratello said, “California needs to spend more to save more on Prop. 36 programs. The tradeoff between paying for adequate treatment or paying to imprison nonviolent drug offenders should make this an easy decision.”
The actual costs of implementing Prop. 36 have averaged more than $138 million the last two years, including $138.4 million in fiscal year 2003-04, according to the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. And a simple adjustment for inflation would call for the budget to be at least $140.6 million instead of the $120 million first set by the ballot measure, which was first submitted to state officials in 1999, the Alliance noted.
“What the governor has given us is a 1999 budget in 2006,” said Fratello.
Proposition 36 was approved by 61 percent of voters in November 2000. A June 2004 poll by the Field Institute showed support for the law at 73 percent.
Because of Proposition 36, there are now nearly 6,300 fewer prisoners serving time for drug possession, a dramatic drop of 32% since drug-related incarceration peaked in 1999 and 2000. Nearly 12,000 people have successfully completed substance treatment during each year of Proposition 36’s existence, and the program is on track to graduate 60,000 people in its first five years.
The 2006-07 fiscal year is the first year in which funding for the voter-approved program is discretionary for the governor and the legislature. Five and one-half years’ funding was set aside by the voter initiative, which also mandated independent analyses of the program’s impact.
Jail Sanctions ‘Unproven’ and ‘Unconstitutional’
Besides reauthorizing funding, the governor’s budget document also calls for “significant reforms” to Proposition 36, including the use of jail time to punish relapse during drug treatment. However, Prop. 36 prohibits the use of such “jail sanctions,” and even supporters of such a change acknowledge that there is no scientific evidence that jail time improves treatment outcomes. Prop. 36 supporters have vowed to sue to block implementation of any legislation adding jail sanctions to the voter-approved law.
Fratello said, “We all want to improve outcomes in Prop. 36, but cutting treatment dollars and jailing more people are not positive reforms. Those are ways of turning back the clock to bring back the old system that Prop. 36 replaced.”
“The evidence is clear that more and better treatment will give us better results,” Fratello said. “There is no evidence that jail time will help people stay in treatment and avoid prison. The focus here must be on treatment dollars. Jail sanctions are unproven, unconstitutional, and an unfortunate distraction to a discussion of how to make Prop. 36 work better.”