Nearly two-thirds of California drug offenders who began rehabilitation programs between July 2001 and June 2002 did not finish them, according to UCLA researchers who evaluated a California law that sends defendants to treatment rather than prison. Researchers said the report was the first to show statewide results since Proposition 36 took effect three years ago, reports the Los Angeles Times. The results could be crucial as legislators consider whether to continue the annual $120 million for treatment programs, probation and other costs. Funding ends in 2006.
The law, passed with support of 61% of voters, represented a dramatic shift in how the courts deal with drug users. According to the 148-page report, which evaluated the program through June 30, 2003, the rates at which drug abusers completed programs were typical of drug users in other court-mandated programs. “Considering the scale of it, what’s happened with Proposition 36 is about what you would have expected,” said Douglas Longshore, the lead researcher. Whites and Asians were more likely to complete the programs, or at least make it to the 90-day milestone, than African Americans and Latinos, the study concluded.