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PROPOSITION 2000 General
Argument in Favor
Argument in Favor of Proposition 36

If Proposition 36 passes, nonviolent drug offenders convicted for the first or second time after 7/1/2001, will get mandatory, court-supervised, treatment instead of jail.

California prisons are overcrowded. We don’t want violent criminals to be released early to make room for nonviolent drug users. We must keep violent criminals behind bars, and try a different approach with nonviolent drug users.

Proposition 36 is strictly limited. It only affects those guilty of simple drug possession. If previously convicted of violent or serious felonies, they will not be eligible for the treatment program unless they’ve served their time and have committed no felony crimes for five years. If convicted of a non-drug crime along with drug possession, they’re not eligible. If they’re convicted of selling drugs, they’re not eligible.

Treatment under Proposition 36 is not a free ride. The rules are strict. For example, if an offender commits a non-drug crime, or demonstrates that treatment isn’t working by repeatedly testing positive for drug use, the offender can be jailed for one to three years.

Besides drug treatment, judges can also order job training, literacy training and family counseling. The idea is to turn addicts into productive citizens, so they pay taxes and stop committing crimes to support their habits.

This is smart drug policy. A California governmental study showed that taxpayers save $7 for every $1 invested in drug treatment. The state’s impartial Legislative Analyst says Proposition 36 can save California hundreds of millions of dollars a year, even after spending $120 million annually on treatment programs.

In 1996, Arizona voters passed a similar initiative. Their Supreme Court reported millions of dollars in savings and a remarkable success rate in treating drug users during the first two years. More recently, New York State decided to implement a similar program.

Proposition 36 is a safe, smart alternative to the failed drug war. It is supported by prominent Democrats and Republicans, major newspapers, and the California Society of Addiction Medicine. Some law enforcement officers and organizations also support Proposition 36. It is opposed by the prison guards union and law enforcement groups that want to spend even more money on failed drug policies we’ve had for 25 years.

Proposition 36 only affects simple drug possession. No other criminal laws are changed. Right now there are 19,300 people in California prisons for this offense. We’re paying $24,000 per year for each of them. When they get out, many will return to drugs and crime. Treatment costs about $4,000, and while it doesn’t help every drug user, it does reduce future crime more effectively than prison.

Proposition 36 is not radical. It gives eligible drug users the opportunity for treatment. If they fail, or break the rules, they can go to jail. Those who can afford to pay for treatment can be forced to do so. If they are convicted of a violent or serious felony or are dealing drugs, they won’t be eligible. Treatment instead of jail works in Arizona and will work in California.

PETER BANYS, President
California Society of Addiction Medicine
RICHARD POLANCO, Majority Leader
California State Senate
KAY MCVAY, President
California Nurses Association

  Analysis by the Legislative Analyst
  Argument in Favor of Proposition 36
  Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 36
  Argument Against Proposition 36
  Rebuttal to Argument Against Proposition 36

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