Newsbrief: Utah Treatment Not Jail Bill Dying For Lack of Funding 3/4/05

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Proposed legislation in Utah that would divert drug offenders from prison to drug treatment appears to be on its death bed, mortally wounded by legislators' refusal to spend $6 million to fund the program. The Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Act (DORA) was backed by almost every branch of state government as a means of trying a new direction in the Beehive State's ever more expensive war on drugs. But as lawmakers crafted what will probably be the last spending bill of the session of the Republican-controlled state legislature, both the House and the Senate GOP caucuses declined to cough up the necessary funds. "For some of the things we find success for, there are some we can't. And we always feel bad about that. DORA was one personally that I really felt I wanted to do," said Senate President John Valentine (R-Orem). "But we don't have the ability to do it this year. I expect it'll be back," he told the Deseret News Tuesday.

"It's the dumbest thing I've ever seen," said Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), who has sponsored the act for the last two years. Legislators were penny-wise and pound-foolish, he said, arguing that the measure would have saved the state millions of dollars by keeping drug offenders from going back to prison.

DORA would have diverted first-time, nonviolent drug offenders from prison to intensive drug treatment. According to Buttars, the bill would have affected some 4,000 drug offenders who typically receive probation but who often end up behind bars for either failing a drug test or getting arrested again with drugs. "It's a good test because those probationers are re-offending at a rate of about 66%. If you give it a year and all at once it drops, like we said it does, to 30%, then you'd have all those beds that didn't get re-filled."

There aren't enough drug treatment slots available as it is, said treatment authorities. "We're faced with a situation where we've got growing referrals from the criminal justice system and we don't have the resources to adequately treat them," said Brent Kelsey, justice program manager for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. There is a slim chance the bill could still get funded, the Deseret News reported. But that would require a sponsor in the House, something that has not yet occurred.

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Issue #377 -- 3/4/05

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The Ignorance and the Damage Done | International Harm Reduction Battle Heating Up | National Drug Control Strategy Taking Lumps from All Sides | Under New South Dakota Anti-Meth Law, Drug Use Equals Child Abuse | DRCNet Needs You to Write the Senate | DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature Rep. John Conyers and Kemba Smith, March 9 in Washington, DC | Coasters to Stop the Drug War | Events and Conferences Coming Up for Drug Reformers -- Come Out and Be a Part of It | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Four Canadian Mounties Killed Raiding Marijuana Grow | Newsbrief: Legalize It, Says Business Week Columnist | Newsbrief: Washington State Drug Reform Coalition Launches Campaign | Newsbrief: Texas Racial Profiling Study Finds No Progress, Calls for Ban on Consent Searches | Newsbrief: Arkansas Bill That Would Have Cut Methamphetamine Sentences Defeated | Newsbrief: Utah Treatment Not Jail Bill Dying For Lack of Funding | Newsbrief: Colombia Guerrillas Demand Return of Commander Extradited to US | Newsbrief: British Opposition Promises Tough New Drug War if Elected | Newsbrief: As British Parties Embrace Student Drug Testing, Research Report Flashes Caution Light | Newsbrief: "The Marijuana-Logues" Tour Cancelled After Parole Officer Forces Tommy Chong to Quit | A Drug War Carol Now Available in Spanish and French | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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