Press Release  | 05/10/2004

Tuesday 10 AM: MD. Governor Ehrlich Signs Treatment Instead of Incarceration Bill into Law

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Overwhelming Bipartisan Support Ensures Public Safety and Cost Savings for the People of Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, MD -- Tuesday May 11, Governor Ehrlich will sign the new drug treatment instead of incarceration bill (HB 295/SB 194) into law. This bill will help divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment programs instead of locking them up. It also includes $3 million in additional funding for drug treatment and gives judges discretion at the time of sentencing.

House Bill 295/ Senate Bill 194 had support from the Women's Legislative Caucus, The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, the Hispanic and Asian Caucuses, as well as organizations such as the Drug Policy Alliance, the Justice Policy Institute, and the Campaign for Treatment Not Incarceration and its 43 coalition member organizations.

Maryland is part of a growing national trend to treat drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, and Marylanders will be healthier and safer as a result," said Michael Blain, the Drug Policy Alliance's Director of Public Policy. "The Drug Policy Alliance has worked on similar legislation in California and other states to further reduce the harm done by the war on drugs. The impact has been tens of thousands of people receiving treatment instead of incarceration, and savings of hundreds of millions of dollars to state budgets."

The passing of this legislation coincides with the recent study, Treatment or Incarceration? National and State Findings on the Efficacy and Cost Savings of Drug Treatment Versus Imprisonment, released by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) which concludes that treatment is better than incarceration in both reducing drug use and crime. "This study shows that Maryland does not need to be incarcerating non violent drug offenders. There is an alternative that can both save Maryland much needed money in these tough fiscal times, and reduce crime," said Vincent Schiraldi, Executive Director of JPI and a co-author of the study.

"Families in Maryland can exhale. After vigorous debate and a massive statewide public education campaign, the different stakeholders have come together to pass legislation that grants drug users greater access to the treatment they so desperately need and want, " stated Tara Andrews, Director of the Maryland Justice Coalition. "This bill is good legislation and we look forward to working with all parties as we move forward to break the twin cycles of drug addiction and incarceration."

Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026 or Elizabeth M

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