Los Angeles County Officials ‘Pleased’ with Early Results of Proposition 36
About 30% of Los Angeles County defendants sentenced to drug treatment under Proposition 36 "failed to show up or dropped out of treatment programs" in the first six months after the law took effect last July, but some judges and county officials "say they are pleased" with the early results, the Los Angeles Times reports. Proposition 36, the voter-approved initiative that sends nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders to treatment rather than prison, took effect July 1. Although the state has not reported statistics, individual counties have reported results from the first six months. A summary of some of the findings appears below:
- Los Angeles County: 69% of 4,329 defendants sentenced to drug treatment programs under Proposition 36 were still receiving treatment at the end of the year.
- Orange County: 67% of 1,978 defendants sentenced to drug treatment under Proposition 36 were still in treatment at the end of the year.
- San Diego County: 54% of 1,578 defendants sentenced to drug treatment under Proposition 36 were still receiving treatment at the end of the year.
- Ventura County: 81% of 992 defendants sentenced to drug treatment under Proposition 36 were still in treatment programs at the end of the year.
"The preliminary indication is that this is working," Carol Morris Lowe, director of planning for the Los Angeles County Alcohol and Drug Program, said, adding, "We're going to have to refine it and tweak it, but I think it's a good start." The Drug Policy Alliance, which "championed" Proposition 36, expects 60% to 70% of defendants to complete drug treatment under the law.
A Los Angeles County task force also issued a report on Proposition 36 based on statistics from the first six months. Some of the findings include:
- The average participant in treatment programs under Proposition 36 in Los Angeles County has 14 past arrests and two felony and five misdemeanor convictions.
- Men represent four of five participants, and more than half of participants are ages 36 and older. Thirty-six percent of participants are Latino, 30% African American, 30% white and 2% Asian.
- Officials said 15% of participants were "severely addicted to drugs" and required them to undergo residential treatment and referred 41% of participants to the "lowest level" of treatment, outpatient meetings several times a week. Officials assigned 44% of participants to day programs that last several hours per session.
- Drug court participation has decreased 23% since Proposition 36 took effect. Drug court participants complete a 12-month treatment program that includes "frequent" counseling, testing and court appearances.
Superior Court Judge Ellen DeShazer, who handles drug court and Proposition 36 cases, criticized the ballot measure as "poorly written and inadequately funded." She also said that the law "lacks serious sanctions and that defendants have too many chances to fail." In drug court, judges can "throw noncompliant participants in jail immediately," she said. Del Sayles-Owen, deputy director of the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, said that participants in treatment programs under Proposition 36 "are more severely addicted than expected," which has led to a "shortage of residential beds" in some counties. Los Angeles County officials said that the law "has put stress on county resources but not overwhelmed them." Los Angeles County Probation Department Bureau Chief Dave Davies said that 40% fewer defendants than anticipated have participated in drug treatment programs under the law because some have refused treatment. However, probation officers, judges and treatment providers said that the county "still needs more than its state-allotted $30 million" to "make Proposition 36 work." The California prison population dropped by about 4,355 inmates in the six months after Proposition 36 took effect, which the Department of Corrections attributed in part to the law. Many states that plan to consider similar ballot measures -- including Michigan, Ohio and Florida -- have "closely watched" the "effectiveness" of Proposition 36 (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 2/5).
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