Ventura County, Ca., is debating whether a voter-approved diversion program for nonviolent drug offenders is a success, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Under Proposition 36, more than 4,000 drug offenders have gone to treatment and supervision rather than jail. Of those, 280 have completed required therapy sessions and are considered drug free. Is a 7 percent success rate good enough? Yes, say those who run the $2.5-million program. It will take time to work out kinks that could be impeding a higher number of graduates, said county Behavioral Health Director Linda Shulman.
Proposition 36, which state voters approved in November 2000, permits first- and second-time, nonviolent offenders convicted of drug possession to receive treatment instead of incarceration.
While the number of graduates is low, about 40 percent of those referred are making progress in beating their addiction, Shulman said. “It is working. We’ve had successful graduates, and we are meeting statewide averages,” she said. “It may not be working for 100% of them, but if it is working for 40% of them, that is 40% who are no longer doing drugs and no longer are a cost to our prison system.”
District Attorney Greg Totten and Sheriff Bob Brooks have been openly critical. They say the diversion rules are lax and tracking of offenders is insufficient.