Washington Post Looks at Proposition 36
The Washington Post today examines Proposition 36, the voter-passed initiative that represents California's "U-turn in the war on drugs." Proposition 36, which calls for most non-violent first- and second-time drug offenders to be directed toward treatment instead of jail, is expected to divert at least 36,000 drug users a year, but the Post reports that the estimate "might prove to be conservative." The initiative essentially "decriminalize[s]" drug use in California, which now joins Arizona as having some of the most "lenient drug use and drug possession laws" in the nation, the Post reports. Dave Fratello, one of the authors of Proposition 36, said, "It's a complete revolution. We've changed the way drug abusers are seen by the system. Before, some people got some treatment. Now, everybody gets treatment, even the most hopeless cases" (Booth, Washington Post, 8/13).
In other Proposition 36 news, implementation in Kern County has run "fairly smoothly" since the law went into effect in July, with "nearly 100% of defendants sentenced to treatment ... reportedly complying with instructions," the Bakersfield Californian reports. According to reports from Kern County Superior Court, 112 drug offenders were deemed eligible for treatment in the first three weeks of July, and 108 attended a screening conducted by the Kern County Mental Health Department and the county Probation Department. The Probation Department reports that more than 200 defendants countywide were sent to treatment in July, and a "majority" have "made it to the actual treatment." Lily Alvarez, behavioral health administrator for the Kern County Mental Health System, said, "The number is certainly showing the responsiveness or eagerness to get treated." Still, Alvarez and other county officials cautioned that the effectiveness of Proposition 36 remains uncertain and will be determined over time. Kern County Assistant District Attorney Steve Tauzer said, "Getting from court to the treatment evaluation, or screening, is just the first step -- it's the easiest part. There is absolute certainty that a large percentage of (offenders) will fail. If 25% succeed, we will be impressed" (Yamashita, Bakersfield Californian, 8/11).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.