35,000 Californians treated under Prop. 36 | TheUnion.com

35,000 Californians treated under Prop. 36

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, also known as Proposition 36, was passed by 61 percent of California voters on Nov. 7, 2000.

In Nevada County, 26,661 residents voted to implement the program, while 19,011 voted against it.

This vote permanently changed state law to give people arrested the first or second time for drug possession the chance to get treatment for their addiction instead of time in state prison time.

Prop. 36 went into effect on July 1, 2001, with $120 million for treatment services allocated by the state yearly for five years.

Nevada County gets $360,000 in base funding for the program every year.

Under the supervision of substance abuse counselors and probation officers, offenders in Nevada County enrolled in Prop. 36 attend 12-step meetings and submit to weekly drug testing. They appear in court on a regular basis to report on their progress to a judge.

Locally, the program is modeled after the county’s Adult Drug Court program, an intense and highly supervised program that boasts an 80-percent success rate.

A team consisting of people from the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department, Nevada County Behavioral Health, the Public Defender’s Office and substance abuse counselors meets weekly to evaluate the progress of each participant.

When offenders show up to court, team members can give additional drug tests to people they think might be backsliding.

Participants who pass their drug tests, attend all of their meetings and are successfully moving through the program are allowed to sit in the jury box, called the “atta-boy” or “atta-girl box” for Prop. 36 Court.

After the team discusses the offender’s progress with the judge, the offender is given a cookie or candy.

She said judges can jail someone after three drug-related violations or one nondrug-related violation. If a participant is charged with a nondrug offense, such as drunken driving or shoplifting, judges can sentence them to jail immediately – but they can remain within the program if they choose.

Re-offenders with one drug-related violation are sentenced to 30 hours of community service. The hours are doubled to 60 hours with a second drug offense.

After a third drug-related offense in Prop. 36, judges have the power to send offenders to county jail.

Also, any serious drug violation such as dealing drugs – which is Ricki Lynn Abel’s latest alleged crime (see related story) – can be grounds for immediate dismissal from the Prop. 36 program.

Statewide savings

According to the program’s official Web site, http://www.prop36.org, more than 35,000 Californians enter treatment each year through Prop 36.

As a result, far fewer inmates are serving state prison time for drug possession.

At the end of 2003, there were 7,055 fewer 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-percent decline left the total number of inmates serving time for drug possession at 13,061.

By July 2006, when initial funding for the program ran out, more than 150,000 people received Prop. 36 treatment and California taxpayers saved about $1.3 billion. That savings allowed the state to halt plans it had to build a new prison before voters passed the law, the Web site reported.

In 2006, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger funded the program at 2000 levels, with no addition for inflation, the online site said. Legislators tacked on an additional $25 million that counties can apply for, based on need.

Bob Gillespie, with Nevada County Behavioral Health, applied for additional funding and received an additional $92,000.

The county provided a 9-percent match to the additional funds, bringing local funding for Prop. 36 to about $460,000.


To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

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