Pubdate: Sat, 26 Aug 2000
Date: 08/26/2000
Source: Record, The (CA)
Author: Timothy R. Holloway Sr.

If passed, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000
(Proposition 36) will do just as the name implies. Kudos to Record
columnist Michael Fitzgerald for supporting a change in the system
that is long overdue.

There are some people opposed to Proposition 36 who spout statistics
and reasoning that are misleading, if not untrue. What Eric Dutemple
Jr. of Riverbank obviously fails to realize is that our judges will
not be "stripped of power to incarcerate individuals for noncompliance
of drug treatment conditions." Treatment will be court-ordered as a
condition of probation. Failure to comply would be a violation of
probation, a felony in and of itself that carries the possibility of a
county jail or state prison term. So there will be "accountability and
consequences for those who do not comply with the rules."

It is also not true that "California taxpayers will have to spend $120
million for new drug programs. At least that much will be saved by not
housing, feeding and clothing the 20,000 people currently in state
prison for simple possession of drugs. And at least another $1 billion
will be saved by delaying the construction of new prisons and
forestalling the many paychecks of the extremely high paid personnel
needed to staff them.

Prisons were meant for violent criminals, not to be used as part of
"the most successful drug treatment program in California, (drug courts)."

Which brings me to the worst propaganda scare tactic to be used in
quite some time: What do paroled murderers (there hasn't been one
since the 1970s) have to do with a person who has a treatable disease?

And "child molesters" are rarely, if ever, drug addicts.

"Violent crimes involving drugs" are still violent crimes, and will be
punished as such. Dutemple also says that drug possessors should have
a fair chance at beating their hideous addiction. Does he feel that's
being done in state prison with no treatment and plenty of illegal
drugs to be had by all?

The only people who could truly be opposed to Proposition 36 are those
who benefit financially from the state's high incarceration rate.

My hope, unlike Dutemple's, is that the Record readers and all
citizens of California will see passage of Proposition 36 not as a
turning back of the clock on justice reform, but as the progressive
step forward that it really will be in savings to taxpayers, in the
rehabilitation of human lives -- and in the reduction of crime.

Timothy R. Holloway Sr.,