California Regrouping in Drug War 

California Regrouping in Drug War 
Posted by FoM on November 13, 2000 at 10:09:38 PT
By Don Thompson, The Associated Press 
Source: Seattle Times 
California, which jails more drug users per capita than any other state, now must quickly change course and implement the most ambitious drug-treatment program in U.S. history. Last week's passage of Proposition 36, a sweeping initiative requiring treatment instead of imprisonment for an estimated 36,000 drug users each year, thrusts California into mostly uncharted territory. 
But as counties rush to make the change by July 1, they can learn from San Francisco, which has bucked the state for years by diverting nonviolent drug offenders into treatment, and Arizona, where voters approved a similar initiative four years ago. Arizona hands out tickets to movies and sporting events and holds picnics for drug offenders who complete treatment programs - anything to reward them for staying clean with the threat of jail no longer hanging over their heads. "It's changed the whole way in which we kind of play the game," said Barbara Broderick, Arizona's state director of adult probation. "Now that you have this law, you really have to embrace it and figure out how to make an incentive-based program work without the hammer." California's program, scheduled to begin July 1, likely will cost much more than the $120 million a year allocated by Proposition 36. But projections say much of the cost will be offset because treatment is cheaper than building and operating prisons. While Arizona can serve as an example, California's statewide change in direction is of much greater magnitude. Arizona had to find 4,000 new treatment slots to handle about 6,000 offenders each year. California will have six times as many offenders, and its existing community treatment programs already have long waiting lists. San Francisco still can't find enough treatment slots five years after District Attorney Terence Hallinan made it his policy to funnel many drug offenders into treatment programs. His office handles 8,000 felony drug arrests each year, 60 percent of its caseload. Mimi Silbert, president and chief executive of the Delancey Street Foundation, San Francisco's largest treatment provider and the nation's largest privately funded treatment program, worries that California mistakenly will turn to quick-fix treatment programs. "It's a complex issue and it requires a complex solution," Silbert said. "The danger is to jump in quickly, to make the assumption that because they're not going to jail their problem is solved." "We're finding that 25 percent of people sentenced to probation are thumbing their nose at the system," said Special Assistant District Attorney Barnett Lotstein in Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. "People are walking away from treatment." Without the threat of jail, Arizona has tried punishing offenders with more frequent court appearances, treatment sessions and community service. "We'll even have them read books and give book reports in open court," said Broderick. "We've tried to be very creative with our sanctions." San Francisco has a "mentor diversion court" for 18- to 25-year-old small-time drug dealers that combines intense supervision with a requirement that participants work toward a high-school diploma and attend college classes. Yet, in three years barely 200 drug offenders have participated. San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, a supporter of treatment programs, warns that some drug offenders are going to commit headline-grabbing crimes while undergoing treatment. "You will have spectacular failures, and you can't scuttle your approach because of those failures," Hennessey said. "You have people who are philosophically opposed (to Proposition 36) and they are looking for the failures to fan the flames of law-and-order." Source: Seattle Times (WA)Author: Don ThompsonPublished: Monday, November 13, 2000Copyright: 2000 The Seattle Times CompanyAddress: P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111Fax: (206) 382-6760Contact: opinion seatimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:California Campaign For New Drug Policy an Uneasy Truce In a Maddening Drug War Many, Plan to Help Addicts Touched Home Articles - Proposition 36: 
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Comment #1 posted by dddd on November 13, 2000 at 14:24:28 PT
good and bad
 Prop 36 may be a step in a positive direction,but I have a feeling that in a way,it will have several negative aspects. The "treatment" industry will spring up,funded perhaps,by many of the same corporate interests that are now involved in the privatly owned prison game.Crummy treatment companies will be springing up all over the place.Administrarers of these fly by nite outfits will get rich,and the staff will be underpaid,and questionably credentialed. The other problem,is that marijuana will remain something that one supposedly needs to be "treated" for,as if it was a "problem".The assumption remains that marijuana is "bad",and anyone who is busted for it,will be labeled as a "drug abuser".This will give lawmakers a sort of excuse,to avoid addressuing the absurdity of prohibition........dddd
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