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September 2004
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Prop. 36 Has Cut Prison Costs, Populations -- Fact Sheet

Voters approved Proposition 36 in November 2000 to reduce the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. This measure has had all of the predicted effects, and more, on the state prison system since it became effective:
  • Far fewer inmates serving time for drug possession - At year-end 2003, there were 7,055 fewer prison inmates serving time for simple drug possession than in June 2000, when the highest-ever total of 20,116 was recorded, during the campaign for Prop. 36. This 35% decline left the total number of inmates serving time for drug possession at 13,061.
  • Women’s prison closed - In February 2003, the Northern California Women’s Facility was closed, largely due to the reduction in female inmates caused by Prop. 36. Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections, said, “There are a lot of reasons the population is down … but we think the biggest factor with the women’s numbers is Proposition 36.” (San Francisco Chronicle, April 21, 2002.)
  • $500 million saved by building only one of two planned prisons - When Prop. 36 was on the ballot in 2000, California was planning to build two new prisons by 2003 to keep up with growing inmate populations. The Legislative Analyst’s review of Prop. 36 predicted savings of between $450 million and $550 million as the state would be able to “delay the construction of additional prison beds as a result of this measure.” Since Prop. 36 was enacted, one of the planned new prisons was built, but plans for more have been scrapped.
  • Prison population rose less than 1% amid rise in crime - In recent years, as the economy has worsened, California has begun imprisoning many more offenders for property crimes. Yet the prison population rose just 0.7% after Prop. 36 was enacted, from 160,655 at year-end 2000 to 161,785 at year-end 2003. Prop. 36 made room for these more serious offenders to replace nonviolent drug users in prison.
  • Prison-building boom is over - Rod Hickman, secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, declared this summer, “The era of building prisons is essentially over.” (Sacramento Bee, July 12, 2004.) Prop. 36 played a major role in ending this chapter in California history.


Common Sense for Drug Policy
California Society of Addiction Medicine
California State Association of Counties

Read commentary from Oliver H., a Prop 36 graduate.

Get the Facts
Over a dozen Proposition 36 fact sheets are available for download. Topics include: the Effectiveness of Drug Treatment, Drug Courts/Deferred Entry, and the California Correctional System.
breakdowns of the 2000 initiative votes
For background on the Prop. 36 campaign and other votes nationwide for drug policy reform, see:

Contact Lists
County Lead Agencies
and Contacts
Parole Region Contact
Probation Contacts



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