Stakeholder Consensus and Circumvention in Drug Diversion Programs: Findings from California's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (Proposition 36)

By Urada, Darren; Gardiner, Christine et al. | Journal of Drug Issues, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Stakeholder Consensus and Circumvention in Drug Diversion Programs: Findings from California's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (Proposition 36)


Urada, Darren, Gardiner, Christine, Anglin, M. Douglas, Journal of Drug Issues


Nearly 50,000 drug offenders are annually offered treatment in lieu of traditional sentencing as a result of California's voter-approved Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA). The challenges SACPA currently faces and their potential solutions may be similar to those faced by diversion programs in other regions. Stakeholders responsible for SACPA implementation were surveyed about the impact of recent budget cuts and were asked for suggestions on how to improve SACPA. Budget cuts undermined portions of the law that stakeholders agreed with and stakeholders themselves sought to circumvent portions of the law that they disagreed with. However, two areas of broad stakeholder agreement emerged: 1) funding should be increased, and 2) the option of brief jail sanctions for noncompliant participants should be made available. To address current challenges, key stakeholder groups should collectively draft and propose a revised version of the law using these areas of agreement as a foundation.

Introduction

A statewide criminal justice policy change occurred in California in November 2000, when voters approved the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA) of 2000, commonly known as "Proposition 36." Under SACPA, adults convicted of nonviolent drug possession offenses can receive drug treatment in the community in lieu of traditional sentencing. Probationers or parolees who are convicted of nonviolent drug offenses or who violate drug-related conditions of probation or parole may also be eligible. Nearly 50,000 drug offenders annually participate in SACPA (Evans, Hunter, & Urada, 2009a), making it one of the largest drug offender diversion programs in the nation.

According to a review of state offender diversion policies by Rinaldo and KellyThomas (2005), a number of states have enacted policies similar to Prop 36, including Arizona (Proposition 200, 1996), Maryland (SB 194, HB 295, 2004), Hawaii (SB 1188, 2002), Washington State (SB 2338, 2002), and Kansas (HB 2309, 2003). In addition, programs that share elements with SACPA such as Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) programs are common throughout the nation and drug courts can be found in every U.S. state (Huddleston, Marlowe, & Casebolt, 2008). In California, drug courts and SACPA coexist as diversion options along a continuum. While the two share elements, the 50,000 annual referrals generated by SACPA vastly exceed the capacity of California drug courts. For comparison, Huddleston et al. (2008) reported that at any given time there are a total of about 70,000 participants in all drug courts nationally, and California was home to about 10% of those courts. On the other hand, drug courts offer a level of intensity and court supervision unmatched by SACPA. In practice SACPA is often used as an early diversion option, and offenders who fail to graduate from SACPA are sometimes transferred to drug courts (Evans, Anglin, Urada, & Yang, in press).

Internationally, SACPA is similar to programs that include the Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) and Drug Rehabilitation Requirement in the United Kingdom. Some recommendations to improve the DTTOs (Bean, 2002) have been similar to UCLA's recommendations to improve SACPA (Urada et al., 2008, 2009). Thus, current issues and developments in California's SACPA policies may be instructive beyond the state's borders. In particular, the financial challenges that SACPA stakeholders are facing may be familiar to stakeholders of diversion programs in other states or countries due to the challenging economic conditions currently affecting government budgets globally.

FINDINGS FROM ANNUAL EVALUATIONS

SACPA has been studied by the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs since the law's implementation in July 2001 . Based on analyses of state administrative databases, UCLA found that among the approximately 50,000 drug offenders who agree to participate in SACPA each year, 70-75% typically enter treatment, and of those who enter treatment, the percentage who complete the planned episode has ranged from 32% to 41 % (Evans, Hunter, & Urada, 2009b). …

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