Initiative funds drug rehabilitation, addiction prevention
Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Updated: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 15:10
After witnessing the inability of the state prison and correction systems to rehabilitate drug addicts, an initiative to provide further help for addicts has been put on Tuesday's ballot.
Instead of putting them back in a system that does not work, Proposition 5 would provide judges with extra options for drug users, Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice, said.
"The prison system is broken," he said. "This is an opportunity for voters to solve the problem."
According to the attorney general, Prop. 5 would limit the courts' authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.
It would also shorten parole for certain drug offenses and increase parole for serious and violent felonies.
NoOnProposition5.com spokesman Kevin Spillane said the initiative gives criminal offenders a scapegoat, claiming they killed someone because they were high and get off without any prison time.
"We're not just talking about (marijuana)," Spillane said. "It allows people who have committed identity theft, burglary and hate crimes to be able to escape.
Macallair said such statements are untrue. If someone is charged with a crime and that person is high or has drugs on his or her person, that offender would be charged with the most serious crime.
"This is crazy," Macallair said. "If you get arrested for stealing a car and you're high you are charged with the primary offense (grand theft auto)."
He said Prop. 5 is meant to give judges options for treatment and rehabilitation, instead of prison.
"This increases the amount of options available to judges, probation staff and the parole system," Macallair said.
The state would allocate $460 million a year to improve and expand treatment programs for those convicted of drug and other offenses with passage.
In addition, new bureaucracies would be created, such as establishing a 19-member board to direct parole and rehabilitation policy, as well as to divide the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Legislative analysts estimate state costs potentially exceeding $1 billion annually to expand the programs. Yet, the proposition could also save that much in reduced prison and parole operating costs.
Possibilities also include a one-time savings that could be more than $2.5 billion to the state, but there is an unknown effect Prop. 5 would have on local governments.
Spillane said despite the potential for reduced costs, it is highly unlikely for the state to save any money and would likely cost the state more than it would help.
"I can't find a time when a government program costs less," Spillane said. "We believe it's going to lead to cuts in vital services."
He said proponents of legalizing drugs wrote the initiative and intended it to be complicated so voters would not read it, but vote for it based on the title.
"It is 60-plus pages, 25,000 words," he said. "People will just read the title (Rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders) and who can be against that?"
Macallair said this proposition is a chance for Californians to stand up against Sacramento policy makers – legislators and interest groups – and fix a broken system.
Contact Brett Abel at email@example.com.