Some Counties Spending Too Much Proposition 36 Money on Probation, Treatment Advocates Say
Supporters of Proposition 36, the ballot initiative approved by voters last November that calls for non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of jail time, say that some county probation offices are "swallowing" too much of the $120 million set aside for the initiative, the Sacramento Bee reports. For example, Sacramento County's Probation Department will receive 34% of the county's $4.2 million annual share of initiative funds during the program's first year and 40% during the second. Bill Zimmerman, executive director of the Santa Monica-based Campaign for New Drug Policies, said that out of all counties statewide, Sacramento has set aside the highest percentage of funds for probation. San Diego County will spend 25%, San Francisco County will spend 5% and Santa Clara County will spend "very little" of its funds for probation, according to Zimmerman. Although Proposition 36 calls for $120 million per year in state funds, it "doesn't spell out exactly how much can be spent for services other than treatment," the Bee reports.
But Zimmerman said that probation departments are "creating unnecessary work for themselves in an attempt to get money to beef up their inadequate budgets." He added that Proposition 36 offenders are "not dangerous and don't need that kind of supervision." Curing addiction, not public safety, is the "main concern," Zimmerman said. However, criminal justice officials in Sacramento County have decided that probation should play a "significant role" to ensure that the initiative does not "erode public safety." The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan that calls for 14 new probation officers, a supervisor and a clerk to work with Proposition 36 offenders. According to Steve DeRoss, the county's assistant chief probation officer, the plan "balances the needs of public safety and treatment. To do it right, you need the accountability and you need someone there to make sure the people are going to the treatment and being drug-tested" (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 5/11).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.