Recidivism Rates Higher for Drug Offenders Who Receive Treatment Under Proposition 36 Than Other Rehab Patients
Drug offenders who underwent treatment under Proposition 36 were 48% more likely to be arrested for another nonviolent drug-related crime within a year of starting treatment, compared with rehabilitation clients who opted for treatment under supervision of probation or parole, according to a report published Friday in the journal Criminology and Public Policy, the Sacramento Bee reports. The report considered outcomes for the six months following the implementation of the measure (Jewett, Sacramento Bee, 11/26).
Under Proposition 36, a 2000 state ballot measure, some nonviolent drug offenders are offered treatment rather than jail terms. Judges can give drug offenders who fail to start treatment a second chance to join a rehabilitation program. If they still fail to seek treatment, drug offenders can be sent to prison. The state gives counties $120 million annually to run their Proposition 36 programs (California Healthline, 9/24).
Unlike drug court, the measure provides "only modest treatment, mandates almost no drug testing, does not require judicial oversight and has no sanctions of relapses," the Riverside Press Enterprise reports (O'Neill Hill, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/26).
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles, was based on data from the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and involved 688 Proposition 36 participants, 1,178 non-Proposition 36 clients and 1,882 noncriminal clients. The study tracked people who underwent treatment in 43 programs in 13 counties from July to December 2001. According to the report, Proposition 36 participants were 65% more likely to be rearrested than noncriminal rehab clients.
UCLA researcher David Farabee said Proposition 36 clients may have had higher recidivism rates because they did not receive adequate treatment. According to Farabee, 75% of Proposition 36 participants with severe drug problems were placed in outpatient programs instead of more intensive residential care, compared with 71% for non-Proposition 36 clients and 56% for noncriminal cases (Estrella, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/26).
Farabee recommended officials improve assessment and referral methods to better place more severe drug users (Riverside Press & Enterprise, 11/26).
Farabee said he drew no conclusions about Proposition 36 based on his findings. "There were limitations to the study. It wasn't designed to measure what happened beyond the first six months. All we know is that there was a difference in arrest rates," he said (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/26).
Farabee added, "The findings of this analysis should really be viewed in the context of other studies that should be surfacing in the next year" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/26).
Judith Appel, an attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance in Oakland, wrote an opposing commentary to the study stating, "The first six months doesn't really give an indication of what's happened with Proposition 36. Many of the counties hadn't even gotten their programs off the ground." Citing another UCLA study on Proposition 36, Appel added, "The important thing to note is that 66,000 were treated during the first two years, and half of them received treatment for the first time" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/26).
Martin Iguchi, director of the Drug Policy Research Center at RAND, said the study is "not surprising, but it doesn't damn [Proposition 36] either." Iguchi added, "No one ever said treatment would always work for those not interested in it."
Glenn Backes of DPA said the study found that Proposition 36 clients were not more likely to commit a violent or property crime after starting treatment than other rehab participants. He added, "The fact that they are arrested at somewhat higher rates is a cause for concern, but we believe [Proposition] 36 can be refined and improved. It's far better than jail."
Del Sayles-Owen, deputy director of the Office of Criminal Justice Collaboration, said the study also highlights some counties' problems in reserving enough beds at residential treatment centers.
According to the Bee, the study "may bolster" critics who say Proposition 36 "is all carrot and no stick."
Mike Kennedy, president of the California Narcotics Officers' Association, said, "Any treatment model has to have sanctions. The problem with Proposition 36 is there are none. That's the big deal" (Sacramento Bee, 11/26).
Jeff Rubin, deputy district attorney for Alameda County, said the program is not funded sufficiently to be successful. "It's like taking a dose of penicillin that will cure one person and spreading it out to 10 people. It doesn't cure anybody," Rubin said (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/26).