Los Angeles County Officials Fear New Proposition 36 Cases will ‘Swamp’ System
With two weeks remaining until the July 1 deadline to implement Proposition 36, the ballot initiative approved by voters last November that calls for non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of jail time, Los Angeles County judges, attorneys and other officials say the county could "find itself without enough courtrooms, treatment centers or counselors to handle an estimated 20,000 or more defendants a year who will be eligible for drug treatment," the Los Angeles Times reports. The state has allocated $60 million for start-up costs and $120 million for the upcoming fiscal year to provide treatment for the estimated 74,000 non-violent drug offenders who will be steered to treatment programs under the initiative. However, Los Angeles County has received only 25% of the total state funding, "even though it handles" up to 40% of drug defendants who will be eligible for treatment, the Times reports. Other potential "challenges" facing the county under the new law include:
- The county Superior Court will double the number of courtrooms dedicated to drug cases to 26 in order to "accomodate the eventual crush of drug offenders eligible for treatment programs."
- County officials "warn that community-based treatment programs already are plagued by a lack of drug counselors," and the county "could face a serious shortage in the number of beds available in the long-term treatment programs required for the most severely addicted offenders."
- Proposition 36 provides no money for drug testing, which is expected to cost the county $6 million a year.
Patrick Ogawa, director of the county Alcohol and Drug Program Administration, which will serve as Los Angeles' "lead agency" for Proposition 36, said, "On a scale of one to 10, I'd say (money) is pretty much a 10 in terms of my concern because I think our system already is underfunded" (Krikorian, Los Angeles Times, 6/18).
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