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Since Prop 36 took effect in July 2001, the law has helped over 150,000 Californians enter drug treatment and improve their lives and the lives of their families. There is one group we—and our legislators—don’t hear from enough: Prop 36 graduates.

Oliver H. is one of them. After drinking and drugging for over three decades, he graduated from Prop 36 treatment and probation in San Diego in 2005. Read his story here. Prop 36 drug treatment, not jail, helped turn around his life and the lives of many of his friends. Here, read what he thinks about Prop 36 and how grads can give back.

Have something to say in response? Let Oliver and us know on our comments page or by contacting him directly at [email protected].

Untitled Document

Changing Our Future

California’s treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, Prop 36, has helped well over 100,000 people enter drug treatment since it came into effect on July 1 2001. On July 1 2006, initial funding of Prop 36 drug treatment ends. The Governor and Legislature are now debating the refunding of Prop 36 drug treatment.

The Governor’s January draft budget included $120 million for Prop 36. However, it also proposed the construction of up to 90,000 new prison beds.

In this commentary, Oliver H, a Prop 36 grad in San Diego, talks about the importance of sending low-level non-violent drug offenders to treatment not jail, and the refunding of Prop 36…

I’m hearing all sorts of good things about refunding Prop 36: proposals, money, budget. I for one thank the Governor for the Prop 36 money in his draft budget. But then reality sets in and I hear words like “not enough”, “inadequate” and “reduction”. The latter set of words doesn’t equal the continued success that is Prop 36.

Every year the politicians crunch numbers to dictate who gets what and who gets cut. I’m sure there are organizations out there that are fighting tooth and nail to get what they need. That’s why I choose to write and fight for what I believe in—Prop 36.

Prop 36 detours people with drug and alcohol problems and behaviors and helps them turn around, so they can become law-abiding productive members of society. That’s what it did for me and for lots of other guys I know.

Now, I love good scenarios and happy endings. Think about this one. On average, one person on Prop 36 costs about $3,300 a year. If the same person was sentenced to a year in prison, he would cost about $40,000. The numbers become even more staggering when you consider other costs like foster care, state visits (by probation officers) and so on.

You, the hard-working taxpayer, should not only know where your tax dollars are going but that when it gets there that it is being spent wisely. Prop 36 is that wise decision! We need more Prop 36 rehabilitation in treatment facilities to give people the working knowledge of recovery and a chance to disassociate with the environment in which they live.

Not everyone can do outpatient. Some people with long histories of using and severe addictions, like me, need inpatient treatment. That is more expensive, but it’s the only thing that worked for me—and for lots of other people in recovery. Prop 36 needs to have enough money so that people get the kind and amount of treatment they need. That’s why the money proposed so far for Prop 36 is not enough.

The Governor put only $120 million for drug treatment next year. That’s the same we put in drug treatment five years ago, before we knew that 36,000 people a year would be in treatment and before we knew that a lot of us would need inpatient treatment.

Some say $120 million seems like a lot, but think about this. The Governor recently said we need to build 90,000 new prison beds. Remember, even after paying to build the prisons, it costs almost $40,000 a year for each of those beds. That is $3.6 BILLION EVERY YEAR just for the new beds!

New prison beds are not the answer, especially when you are filling those beds with people whose real problem is drug and alcohol addictions. Mixing drug offenders with the hardcore prison population only gives drug offenders time to learn about real criminal behavior. A healthy and productive life is the answer to a long and prosperous life. This is what I learned in treatment—not jail.

It is my firm belief that nothing is better than Prop 36 drug treatment at detouring people from prison, giving them the necessary treatment so they can recover, and putting moms, dads and their children back together.

So, over the next few months, everyone in Sacramento that will be deciding who gets what, when you sit down at the dinner table with your families just stop for a minute and realize how many lives you can change for the greater good. How many children, moms and dads like yourselves you can put back at the dinner table. Now tell me isn’t that a picture of a Kodak moment?

Remember: more funding for Prop 36 equals adequate treatment, more productive members of society and truly a better feeling of success for us all. And, last but not least, it saves lives!

Until next time, let us all trudge the road to a happier destiny.

  Choose a Commentary
Drumming Up Support
Forever Making a Difference
A Day in Sacramento
Changing Our Future
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One Year As An Advocate




Drug Policy Alliance · (916) 444-3751 · [email protected]
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