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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ROY WASDEN: Proposition 5 would expand on the failures of Proposition 36

In November 2000, Proposition 36 won voter approval on the promises of lower prison populations, significant cost savings and lower crime rates by removing incarceration from the sentencing options available to judges dealing with drug defendants.

Under Proposition 36, judges can only order drug defendants to treatment. With no threat of incarceration, a judicial order to attend treatment is hollow and very few persons ordered into drug treatment even sign up for it. Defendants simply keep using drugs, almost always financed by criminal behavior. A precious few go to treatment and succeed but most addicts get sicker and sicker. They commit more and more crimes until their sickness and criminal behavior finally result in death or a sentence to incarceration for one of their other crimes.

Despite the promises of Proposition 36, prison populations have swelled to record numbers and costs for incarceration have increased dramatically. Despite record numbers of arrests, property crime rates have not dropped. It is discouraging to see in a recent survey of defendants sentenced to diversion under Proposition 36 that they have an average of 11 felony arrests. It is important to realize that every crime an addict commits does not get reported and, of the crimes that are reported, not every crime is solved. Conservative estimates are that at least 10 crimes are committed for every one that results in arrest.

If these estimates are accurate, we could assume that the average addict in Proposition 36 has committed about 110 crimes. Clearly, leaving these addicted persons on the streets of our community creates a tidal wave of crime committed to finance drug use.

However, crime is not the only concern. Addicts in our community infect others with their sickness as they carry on their drug-centered life style. When we consider all the costs it can only be said that Proposition 36 is an expensive and dismal failure. The promises of Proposition 36 have not come to fruition for one simple reason: there is no accountability. [Mark Godsey]

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