Pubdate: Sun, 24 Mar 2002
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2002 Richmond Newspapers Inc.
Author: Frank Green, Times-Dispatch Staff Writer


Legislators Trimmed $18 Million Over Two Years

State legislators have cut more than $18 million in substance abuse
treatment funds for parolees, probationers and juvenile offenders over
the next two years.

The budget, now before Gov. Mark R. Warner, has alarmed substance
abuse treatment professionals as well as advocates for inmates who
contend that, in the long run, cutting the treatment programs will
lead to more crime.

The money would have been provided under the Substance Abuse Reduction
Effort, or SABRE program.

Created two years ago, SABRE was touted as a balanced approach to the
drug problem that addressed treatment and prevention along with
tougher drug law enforcement.

In each of the next two years the budget trims $4.4 million in SABRE
treatment funds from the Department of Corrections, $2.3 million from
the Department of Juvenile Justice and $2.5 million from the
Department of Criminal Justice Services.

"This is the most catastrophic cut in offender substance abuse
treatment ever in Virginia," said V. Morgan Moss, co-director of the
Center for Therapeutic Justice in Williamsburg.

"This will affect tens of thousands of offenders with substance abuse
problems at all different levels."

Moss is concerned about not only the SABRE cuts but also other
proposed cuts affecting such programs as drug courts, which will lose
part of $3.4 million in revenue generated by court fines and fees
previously designated for drug courts. He is also concerned about the
Pre-Release and Post-Incarceration Services program, which will lose
$2.2 million next year.

"Without this important assistance for drug offenders, we will surely
see a rise in the number of men and women who are imprisoned for
crimes ranging from simple possession, crimes to support drug habits,
and crimes that are enabled by substance abuse," said Jean Auldridge,
director of Virginia Citizens for the Reform of Errants.

Auldridge said CURE urges Warner to restore the SABRE and other
treatment money to the budget.

State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach and chairman of the
Senate Finance Committee's subcommittee on public safety, could not be
reached for comment.

But in a briefing to the full committee last month he said that care
was taken not to cut any of the public safety departments' "core functions."

"We have given long and careful attention to these reductions and have
not taken lightly our responsibility to ensure that they are fairly
and judiciously applied," he said.

Representatives of the three public safety departments affected by the
SABRE cuts said that they will be able to continue the bulk of their
substance abuse treatment programs.

For instance, the treatment programs offered by the Department of
Juvenile Justice in its juvenile correctional centers will continue

The loss of SABRE funds affects money used to buy treatment services
for non-incarcerated offenders through local Community Service Boards,
a spokeswoman said.

And a spokesman for the Department of Criminal Justice Services said
the SABRE funds would have been used to "beef up" the roughly $18.5
million the department uses to fund treatment for 36 local community
corrections programs across the state each year.

Nevertheless, Walter M. Pulliam Jr., head of community corrections for
the Department of Corrections, said "the impact across the criminal
justice system is pretty substantial."

"It will not substantively reduce programs" inside the state prisons,
but it will have widespread effects on community corrections programs
for offenders who are not incarcerated but in need of substance abuse
treatment, Pulliam said.

About 64 percent of offenders in community corrections programs have
substance abuse problems, he said.

"One of the ways of producing public safety is reducing the dependence
on drugs and if you are able to do that then maybe you can reduce
criminal activity" used to support drug habits, he said.
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