Convicted California drug users are more likely to be arrested on new drug charges since Proposition 36 took effect than before voters approved the law mandating drug treatment rather than incarceration, said a UCLA study released Friday and reported by the Los Angeles Times. The state-funded study raises new questions about Proposition 36 at a time when lawmakers and courts are discussing stricter requirements for defendants. Researchers tracking drug offenders found high levels of new drug arrests among those eligible in the first year of Proposition 36, which took effect in 2001. About 50 percent of those offenders were picked up by police within 30 months, compared with 38 percent of similar offenders convicted before Proposition 36.
Some increases in arrests were expected because Proposition 36 left offenders on the street who would have previously served time. The research underscores the difficulty in getting drug offenders into treatment and out of trouble. Only about 25 percent of the defendants who are sentenced to drug treatment complete the programs. Even among those who complete treatment, more than four in 10 had new drug arrests within 30 months of their Proposition 36 convictions. The numbers are worse for those who don’t finish treatment. Those who failed to appear for rehab were less likely to be rearrested than those who went to some treatment but dropped out: 55 percent compared with 60 percent. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a $25-million cut to the program. Researchers called for at least $79 million more to increase supervision of defendants and address treatment shortages.