Admissions to drug treatment programs in five large California counties climbed sharply after voters decided three years ago that first-time nonviolent drug offenders should not go to prison, says a new study. The Associated Press reported that the University of California at Los Angeles report said drug programs are having difficulty with offenders with multiple or severe problems.
The first-year study published in the journal Evaluation Review does not draw conclusions about the success of treatment programs in preventing future crime or drug abuse. The five-year study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, aims to identify how the best treatment for offenders who would have been sent to prison or jail absent Proposition 36, approved by voters in November 2000. The initiative took effect in July 2001.
Since then, admissions to drug treatment programs jumped 27 percent in Kern County, 21 percent in Riverside County, 17 percent in Sacramento County, and 16 percent in San Diego County. San Francisco admissions did not rise, but the city had an extensive diversion program and prosecution policy before the statewide initiative.
Counties had more trouble dealing with patients with severe addictions, whose abuse was complicated by mental illness or disability, or who were homeless abusers, said the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Counties’ progress in implementing the voter mandate is “encouraging,” said the study’s lead author, Yih-Ing Hser. The study found those diverted from the justice system into treatment s were mostly male first-time offenders with full-time jobs. Most used methamphetamine and marijuana. Heroin users and injection drug users were less likely to participate in treatment.
The study found significant variation in how counties are complying with Prop 36. San Francisco requires no urine tests; Sacramento County has random urine testing by treatment programs and its probation department. The other three counties leave it up to treatment programs.