Pubdate: Thu, 26 Oct 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Bookmark: For Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act items:


This is one of a series of editorials on issues and candidates on the 
ballot in the upcoming election.

Proposition 36 offers the promise of greatly expanded drug treatment 
programs throughout the state. That would be a laudable achievement in 
itself, but this measure takes such a lenient approach to drug violations 
that it's tantamount to decriminalizing "hard" drugs such as cocaine, 
heroin and methamphetamine.

There are so many drawbacks to this initiative that voters should cast a 
"no" vote on Proposition 36 on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Judges and law enforcement officials recognize the value of drug treatment 
facilities. Many people who violate minor drug laws get a chance to make 
amends by successfully completing court-ordered programs. Shasta County 
operates an effective drug court that relies on legitimate treatment for 

There would be a big difference in how drug violators are handled under the 
two systems. Shasta County's program demands sobriety and relies on testing 
to determine if participants are indeed drug-free. Proposition 36, on the 
other hand, supplies no money to test offenders. The program is worthless 
without testing. How else do you hold participants accountable and make 
sure they are not using the system to stay out of jail? And the penalty for 
failing treatment can be re-enrollment in another program. Some punishment. 
Even repeat criminals can avoid prison terms.

Proposed rules for participating in a program are so lax that users still 
could be shooting up methamphetamine or smoking crack cocaine right after 
their drug class. So much for keeping offenders off drugs. We wonder how 
many people sincere in beating their drug addiction would be put on a 
waiting list while others pretending to get treatment would take their place.

There are other odd provisions within this proposition. The measure would 
order treatment for a person arrested on a nonviolent drug charge without 
determining whether the person was an addict. The person could have been 
caught with drugs but not even be a user. Under another section, job 
applicants would be legally able to hide past drug convictions.

We need drug treatment programs that combine close supervision with the 
threat of serious consequences, such as prison time, if rules are broken. 
Judges need the freedom to impose creative ways of steering a person away 
from the criminal justice system. This initiative takes away creative 
solutions and puts too many hurdles between the commission of a drug crime 
and prison time.

We do need more facilities to treat addicts, but Proposition 36 would 
institute programs designed to be weak and ineffective. Don't take away the 
key that drug court judges use to lock up offenders when they fail drug 
treatment. We urge a "no" vote on Proposition 36.
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