Kansas legislators have approved a bill that would send some non-violent offenders drug treatment rather than prison. Officials say the measure would free up 194 prison beds by the end of 2004. Stateline.org reports that 10 other states are considering similar legislation. A representative of the National District Attorneys Association says, however, that “I wouldn't consider (drug treatment) a low-budget item. When you match it up against incarceration it may save a bit, but it also puts drug offenders in a riskier position on the street.”
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) wants to transfer 400 non-violent offenders into drug treatment programs for up to 90 days. Washington State Gov. Gary Locke (D) wants to implement a year early a law that would shorten drug sentences and end post-release supervision of low-risk offenders.
Voters in Arizona and California have approved sweeping ballot measures requiring drug treatment with probation instead of jail for low-level offenders. Their programs have served as models for some other states, but New York has not revised the tough penalties in the longstanding “Rockfeller drug laws” of the 1970s.