Nearly a third of California drug offenders who volunteered for treatment under a voter-passed initiative called Proposition 36 were arrested on drug charges within a year of entering rehab programs, says a new study reported by the Los Angeles Times. The proposition, passed in 2000, changed the way the criminal justice system deals with drug offenders by extending to many the option of entering rehabilitation rather than going to prison. Nearly 30,500 people chose rehabilitation during the first year of Proposition 36. The number rose to nearly 36,000 the next year. The study, in the current issue of the journal Criminology & Public Policy, is believed to be the first to provide recidivism data, according to UCLA researchers.
The study found that 31 percent of offenders in Proposition 36 programs were rearrested within a year of starting treatment, compared with 18 percent of those in court-ordered drug treatment programs unrelated to the initiative. Lead researcher David Farabee was surprised. He said, “I would have assumed that they would be comparable to other criminal justice clients. I wouldn’t have assumed that the arrest rates would be significantly higher.”