Advocates of Proposition 36 - the new California initiative that allows for treatment instead of jail for non-violent drug offenders - issued 'report cards' today, grading 11 counties encompassing 75 percent of the state population on the quality of their implementation plans.
With an "A" grade, San Francisco ranked the highest, followed by San Mateo (A-), Alameda (B), Orange (B), Los Angeles (B-), Fresno (C), Riverside (C), Santa Clara (D+), San Diego (D+) and Sacramento (D). The County of San Bernardino came in last with a failing grade.
Advocates say the success of Prop. 36 - which goes into effect July 1 -depends fundamentally on how it is implemented in counties across the state.
"We want the people of California to get what they voted for," said Glenn Backes, Director of Health and Harm Reduction at The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation, a non-profit drug policy reform organization, which issued the report cards. "We are embarking on a new drug policy to break the cycle of addiction."
Grades, based on written implementation plans submitted by each county to the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, incorporated the following critical elements for success:
- Money for Treatment - Counties were graded based on the percentage of funds allocated directly to treatment-related costs. If allocated properly, funds for Prop. 36 will save taxpayers money in the long run, since incarceration is about six times more expensive than treatment.
- Treatment Options - Grades were given in this category based on the range of treatment programs available in each county, including: drug education, outpatient, intensive outpatient, detoxification, residential, methadone maintenance, vocational training, literacy training, family counseling, and culturally-specific programs.
- Docs or Cops? -- This grade reflects county officials' inclusion of public health professionals in the planning and implementation processes.
- Community Voices - Counties were graded based on whether or not they: held community forums as part of their planning process; publicized their community forums; and/or had a balance of criminal justice, community and public health representation on their implementation task forces.
- Extra Credit - Extra credit was given to San Francisco, Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties for issuing District Attorneys' criminal charging guidelines, defining Prop. 36 eligibility." Such guidelines will help prevent "over-charging" offenders, which would make them ineligible for treatment under Proposition 36.
"Counties will not get away with using taxpayer money to fund more of the same failed policies," said Whitney A. Taylor, Lindesmith-DPF's Proposition 36 Implementation Director. "We hope these criteria will help guide them in the right direction."
Proposition 36 - the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act - was passed by 61% of California voters last November. The California State Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) estimates that this initiative will divert approximately 37,000 low-level, non-violent drug possession offenders from incarceration into treatment at an approximate savings of $1.5 billion over 5 years to California taxpayers.
"California is leading the nation toward drug policies based on common sense, science, public health and human rights," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Lindesmith-DPF. "Soon other states, and eventually the federal government, will follow." WEB AVAILABILITY OF REPORT CARDS
The report cards are available on the web in pdf format at www.prop36.org