Many ‘Hard-Core’ Drug Addicts Sentenced Under Proposition 36
The New York Times reports that "far more severe addicts than anyone expected" have pleaded guilty under California's Proposition 36, raising concerns among state judges, prosecutors and treatment providers. Proposition 36, the ballot measure approved last November, sends non-violent first- and second-time drug offenders into treatment programs rather than prison. The law took effect July 1. According to the Times, "hard-core" drug addicts may bring "added complications" to treatment, such as mental illness, homelessness and unemployment. "One of the lessons we are learning is that we are getting a lot of people who are so addicted they just aren't ready for treatment," Los Angeles County Judge Stephen Marcus said, adding, "Their addiction is so powerful it controls everything in their lives." In Los Angeles County, which accounts for 25% of California drug arrests, about 30% of drug offenders who pleaded guilty under Proposition 36 have "since had bench warrants issued for their arrests" after they "failed to show up" at treatment centers or did not return to court for a review of their progress, Marcus said. In Sacramento County, analysts predicted that seven of 10 offenders under Proposition 36 would only require "minimal treatment because they were casual drug users with supportive families or jobs," but county officials said that more than 50% have "turned out to be hard-core addicts needing maximum treatment." However, supporters of Proposition 36 said that the law "is working well." Bill Zimmerman, executive director of the Campaign for New Drug Policies, which sponsored Proposition 36, said, "The basic goals are being met. The key thing is, people who formerly were being incarcerated are now getting treatment." He added, "The doctors tell us that we can't expect more than one-third of these serious addicts to recover. That's a very low number, but it is a lot higher than the number who were being cured in jail or prison without treatment" (Butterfield, New York Times, 9/29).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.