California’s 6-year-old program that mandates treatment instead of prison sentences for drug offenders is dramatically decreasing jail populations and saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, says a report by the “left-leaning” Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., according to the Los Angeles Times. The study echoes a recent UCLA report that said the program, enacted voters in 2000 as Proposition 36, saved California $173 million in its first year and $2.50 for every dollar invested since then.
The Justice Policy Institute, which seeks alternatives to incarceration, said the rate of imprisonment for drug possession offenses has decreased by more than 34 recent. It said dire predictions of a rise in violent crime with the passage of Proposition 36 were unfounded. The reports come at a critical time for supporters, who contend that the $120 million earmarked for Proposition 36 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when funding runs out this summer is not enough. “It really needs to be at $209 million just to be bare-bones adequate,” said Margaret Dooley of the Drug Policy Alliance. She and others plan to descend on Sacramentol this month to drum up support for more funding, which she believes would be forthcoming because lawmakers would be unable to point to a downside.