Pubdate: Fri, 31 Oct 2008
Source: Ledger Dispatch (Jackson, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Amador Ledger Dispatch
Author: Todd Riebe
Note: Todd Riebe is the Amador County district attorney.


On Nov. 4, California voters will decide on a ballot proposition that 
could dramatically alter the criminal justice system and jeopardize 
public safety. Proposition 5, the so-called "Non-Violent Offender 
Rehabilitation Act," poses the greatest threat to public safety in 20 years.

Sponsored and bankrolled by billionaire George Soros, NORA aims to 
expand Proposition 36 drug treatment programs by earmarking $150 
million in initial costs, $460 million by July 1, 2009, and $460 
million plus an inflation adjustment every year thereafter. A Little 
Hoover Commission study showed that Prop. 36 has been an abject 
failure in treating the addicts it is seeking to cure, achieving only 
a 19 percent graduation rate. Forty-three percent of these graduates 
will commit another drug offense within two years.

NORA advertises itself as applying to non-violent drug offenders, but 
nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, NORA could provide 
a "get-out-of-jail-free" card to defendants charged with crimes such 
as domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, identity theft, check 
fraud, burglary, DUI, vehicular manslaughter, auto theft and mortgage 
fraud, letting them escape criminal prosecution altogether. If a 
violent offender is granted a hearing using the "drugs made me do it" 
defense created by NORA, the burden of proof shifts to the 
prosecution to prove the defendant should be held responsible for their crimes.

NORA provides no accountability for drug addicts, who would be able 
to continue to abuse drugs during treatment. Dirty drug tests cannot 
result in violations of the program, constitute new offenses or lead 
to jail time. Even the commission of new criminal offenses may not 
trigger expulsion from the program. Successful drug treatment 
programs like drug courts and the San Francisco-based Delancey 
Street, which boasts a graduation rate more than double that of Prop. 
36 programs, will be crippled because defendants in the throes of 
their addictions will choose the lenient option offered by NORA over 
programs that demand accountability and responsibility from their 
participants. Actor Martin Sheen, chair of the No on 5 campaign, 
knows from personal experience that successful drug rehabilitation 
needs accountability and sometimes direct intervention, rather than 
waiting for addicts to seek treatment when they are ready. Many 
addicts are never ready or don't live long enough to become ready.

NORA is also too costly. It requires spending in perpetuity that can 
only be restricted by a voter initiative campaign. The governor and 
legislature cannot adjust Prop. 5 funding even in times of budget 
shortfall or crisis. NORA requires counties to provide up to a 10 
percent match in order to receive state funds. Our already 
overcrowded local jails would house parole violators who continue to 
abuse drugs. Prop. 5 monies cannot be used for drug testing or to 
treat addicts who are incarcerated. An oversight panel will determine 
what costs the county must bear and there is no right to appeal.

Illegal narcotics have unleashed havoc upon Amador County. Too many 
people's lives have been lost and shattered. Too many families have 
been torn asunder. Too many children have lost their childhood. Too 
many collateral victims have been tragically impacted. NORA won't end 
this cycle - it will make it worse. Unfortunately, NORA will likely 
become law unless the public is told the truth about this costly and 
dangerous drug treatment initiative. Soros and his friends have 
raised far more money than what the No on 5 campaign has raised thus 
far. When people hear what NORA is really about, they oppose it. 
Toward that end, Amador County Sheriff Martin Ryan, Chief Probation 
Officer Mark Bonini and myself requested a board of supervisors' 
resolution publicly opposing Proposition 5, which was passed 
unanimously. In an unprecedented display of bipartisan support, NORA 
has been opposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Attorney General Jerry 
Brown, former governors Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George 
Deukmejian, Sen. Dave Cox, Congressman Dan Lungren, Lt. Gov. John 
Garamendi and the California Judges Association, as well as Mothers 
Against Drunk Driving and the entire law enforcement community.

Please do your part to stop this costly and dangerous initiative by 
asking your family, friends and neighbors to vote "no" on Proposition 
5. We simply cannot afford the massive havoc this initiative would 
wreak on our families, schools and community.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom