Early Returns on Prop. 36 Show Some Defendants Serve Prison Time Despite New Law
"Early evidence" from county courts reveals that some drug offenders are "walking a precarious line" between receiving the treatment mandated under Proposition 36 or prison time, the Los Angeles Times reports. Proposition 36 is the voter-approved initiative that calls for most nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders to be directed toward treatment instead of jail. Defendants who test positive for drugs while in rehab or are caught again with drugs "generally" have two additional chances at rehab, but will serve prison time for a fourth offense. The Times reports, however, that for defendants who fail to appear in court, judges are issuing warrants for arrest and are "considering" sending them to prison immediately. If this proves to be the case, more defendants may end up in prison rather than treatment, changing the expectation that treatment programs will become overcrowded. Moreover, voters, who passed Proposition 36 61%-39%, may "begin questioning" the state's "innovative attempt to alter the way drug defendants are sentenced," the Times reports. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus said, "The reality is many addicts are not ready for treatment. The drug addiction is so strong and overwhelming in their life that it controls everything they do. They are simply going to go back to using drugs" (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 8/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.