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California's Proposition 36 Shows Results

Law Placed More Than 30,000 in Treatment in First Year


Updated July 20, 2003

In the first release of findings from an evaluation of California's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA), UCLA researchers report that the law enacted by voters as Proposition 36 placed more than 30,000 drug offenders in treatment during its first year -- more than half in treatment for the first time.

About half of SACPA offenders in treatment identified methamphetamine as their primary drug problem, and researchers reported overall treatment retention rates comparable to non-SACPA treatment clients. The evaluation identified about half of SACPA clients as whites, 31 percent as Hispanics and 14 percent as African Americans. Seventy-two percent were men.

The independent evaluation by UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs researchers offers the first profile of the flow of offenders through the SACPA pipeline across all 58 California counties during the 12 months ending June 30, 2002. The research group, part of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, will issue reports in the future on SACPA's fiscal impact and effectiveness.

"The program introduced thousands of new clients into local drug treatment systems during its first year. It's critical to note that SACPA participation is voluntary; it reflects an affirmative decision by eligible offenders," said Douglas Longshore, a behavioral scientist at the research group and the study's principal investigator.

"The level of participation in year one is notable when considering the high level of collaboration required among local agencies involved in planning and administration; coordination of assessment, treatment and supervision of offenders; staff training; and problem solving," Longshore said. "Despite the challenges and ongoing concerns over funding, most county representatives offered favorable reports on local implementation."

Among the findings: The court found 53,697 drug offenders eligible for SACPA during the law's first year, and 82 percent (44,043) chose to participate in SACPA. Of those, 85 percent (37,495) completed assessment, and 81 percent (30,469) of assessed offenders entered treatment. Overall, 69 percent of offenders who opted for SACPA in court entered treatment -- a "show" rate that compares favorably with rates in other studies of drug users referred to treatment by criminal justice or other sources.

About 50 percent of SACPA offenders in treatment reported methamphetamine as their primary drug problem, followed by cocaine/crack (15 percent), marijuana (12 percent) and heroin (11 percent), according to the report. On average, SACPA clients had longer drug use histories than non-SACPA clients referred to treatment by criminal justice.

Most SACPA clients (86 percent) were placed in outpatient drug-free programs, and 10 percent were placed in long-term residential programs.

SACPA clients remained in treatment at rates similar to those among non-SACPA clients.

Three strategies were associated with higher "show" rates at assessment: 1) placing probation and assessment staff at the same location, 2) allowing "walk-in" assessment and 3) requiring only one visit to complete assessment. Handling SACPA offenders through a drug court approach was strongly related to higher "show" rates at treatment.

SACPA represents a major shift in criminal-justice policy. Adults convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses and otherwise eligible for SACPA can now be sentenced to probation with drug treatment instead of either probation without treatment or incarceration. Offenders on probation or parole who commit nonviolent, drug-related offenses or who violate drug-related conditions of their release may also receive treatment.

Source: UCLA News Release.

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