UCLA issues new report on Prop. 36

The effectiveness of Proposition 36, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 2000 that offers treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders is being undermined by inadequate funding, participants dropping out of treatment, and increased arrests for drug and property crimes. The good news, however, is that the initiative has saved taxpayers millions of dollars, several promising new programs have the potential to improve Proposition 36's results, and violent crime arrests have decreased more in California than nationally since the proposition's implementation. However, Proposition 36 funding was cut further last month when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed 10 percent of the program's funding in response to the state's fiscal problems. Funding for the voter-mandated evaluation of the measure, which includes research on ways to improve the program, has also been suspended.

These are some of the key findings from UCLA's latest report on Proposition 36, also known as the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA) of 2000. The measure, which went into effect in July 2001, allows nonviolent adult drug offenders to receive substance-abuse treatment with supervision as an alternative to incarceration or supervision without treatment. The law also calls for an independent evaluation of the program, which is being conducted by UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

According to the report, under Proposition 36, more than 30,000 drug offenders enter treatment each year and about half of them are being treated for the first time. Most receive outpatient care, which is less expensive than residential treatment but is also less effective for heavy drug users. Although the number of available residential treatment beds has increased since the measure's enactment, the increases have not been able to meet the rising need. Stakeholders interviewed in focus groups indicated that this was due to limited funding and infrastructure. The report also found that drug and property crime arrests were higher among Proposition 36 participants than among a comparison group of pre-Proposition 36 drug offenders, the latter having spent more days in custody and fewer days on the street during which they could get arrested.

UCLA's reports on Proposition 36 are available at www.uclaisap.org/prop36.