Proposition 36 ‘Remains Controversial’ One Year After Enactment
Proposition 36, the voter-approved ballot measure that allows many first- and second-time drug offenders to receive treatment rather than prison sentences, "remains controversial" one year after the law took effect, the Fresno Bee reports (Davis, Fresno Bee, 7/1). The sponsors of Proposition 36 proposed the measure to decrease the prison population, save taxpayers money and reduce drug addiction rates in the state. In the six months after last July's enactment of Proposition 36, more than 12,000 defendants received treatment under the law, and the number of state prisoners has decreased by 3,272 to 158,089 over the past year. Gerald Uelman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, said, "We've gotten a lot more people into treatment, and I think we're going to save a ton of taxpayer money" (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 7/1).
However, the demand for treatment programs under the law has exceeded the state's capacity, the Bee reports. Although the sponsors of Proposition 36 estimated that 15% of drug offenders eligible for treatment would require placement in residential treatment centers, the state has placed about 20% to 30% of offenders in such facilities (Fresno Bee, 7/1). Opponents also have questioned the effectiveness of the law, pointing out that about one-third of defendants referred for treatment under Proposition 36 "failed to show up" or dropped out within six months. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan said, "We are squandering a lot of resources on people who are not ready for treatment," adding that the state must increase sanctions for defendants who do not attend treatment programs. In addition, a number of defendants who suffer from depression or have severe bipolar disorders pose a "major challenge" to the law. A University of California-Los Angeles study of Proposition 36 found several additional problems, such as a "large number of high-need cases" and "insufficient future funding" for treatment programs (Los Angeles Times, 7/1).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.