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Initiatives: Drug Czar, Prison Guards Gang Up on California's Treatment-Not-Jail Proposition 5

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP--the drug czar's office) director John Walters headed to California this week to try to defeat a ballot initiative that would divert thousands of drug offenders from prison in the nation's most populous state. The state's powerful prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), has entered the fray too, pledging a million dollars to help finance a last-minute opposition campaign.

The target of their ire is the Nonviolent Offenders Rehabilitation Act (NORA), which will appear on the ballot as Proposition 5. NORA would profoundly deepen and broaden the shift toward treatment instead of incarceration that began six years ago with Proposition 36. If NORA passes, it would:

  • require the state to expand and increase funding and oversight for individualized treatment and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees;
  • reduce criminal consequences of nonviolent drug offenses by mandating three-tiered probation with treatment and by providing for case dismissal and/or sealing of records after probation;
  • limit courts' authority to incarcerate offenders who violate probation or parole;
  • shorten parole for most drug offenses, including sales, and for nonviolent property crimes;
  • create numerous divisions, boards, commissions, and reporting requirements regarding drug treatment and rehabilitation;
  • change certain marijuana misdemeanors to infractions.

All of that is too much for drug czar Walters, who showed up in Sacramento Tuesday to blast the initiative as a back-door move to legalize drugs. The Drug Policy Alliance, which is backing NORA, and its top funder, financier George Soros, cannot achieve drug legalization "by being honest and straightforward," so they deceptively offered up Prop. 5 to undermine the drug court system, Walters charged. Passage of Prop. 5 would "weaken our capacity to help people in the criminal justice system" who still remain subject to punishment if they fail, he said.

That guaranteed a sharp retort from Prop. 5 supporters. Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, spokesperson for Yes on 5, called the measure "a common sense response" to prohibition-related crime and blasted Walters as a spokesman for failed policies. "President Bush's drug czar has come to California to insist that we continue with the failed approach that has been so ineffective and has crowded our prisons full of nonviolent offenders," Dooley-Sammuli said.

The Legislative Analyst's Office calculates that Prop. 5 will lower incarceration costs by $1 billion each year and will cut another $2.5 billion in state costs for prison construction. This doesn't include savings related to reduced crime, lower social costs (e.g. emergency room visits, child protective services, welfare), and increased individual productivity.

But filling California prisons full of nonviolent offenders is a jobs program for the prison guards union. While earlier in the campaign season, the union had been distracted by a failed effort to recall Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, last week it announced it was kicking in a million dollars to defeat the initiative.

"CCPOA never has been shy about making sure that our voice is heard," union spokesman Lance Corcoran said. "We'll continue to do that. We've always put the resources necessary to get the job done," he said.

But while the prison guards and the drug czar join other law enforcement groups in lining up against Prop. 5, the measure has broad support within the treatment community, as well as endorsements from the League of Women Voters of California, the California Nurses Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and the Consumer Federation of California -- among many others.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Everyone needs to post beneath the news articles

The prison guards are swarming the newspaper editors and posting sharp, misleading comments at the news sites. Teach people to get out and counter these arguments right away. go to, click on "news", enter "Prop 5, California. That will give you a list of links, go to the newspapers who have recommended a "no" vote and post short comments beneath the articles, this is the best way to communicate with the voters and editors. The guards don't need to be asked twice to do this and they're out there In California, it is always the punishers against the healers, and unfortunately, the healers are the least aggressive, least organized group of all. By releasing non violent prisoners, the State could save billions in prison costs, and this is the only rational solution, but the guards can win even the stupidest arguments because they always show up for their own wars, unlike our side. Get out with your pens and keyboards and show the editors that they have made a mistake due to the size of the public outcry (that's you)

Like any other proposition,

Like any other proposition, this one is another waste of taxpayers’ money not only to put it on the ballots, publicity, etc., but also to put it in effect. It will fulfill the politicians’ pockets and do ABSOLUTLY NOTHING about it.
What it’s really needed in the PRISON STATE (CA), is a change on the MANDATORY MINIMUS and reduce the time served or sentences, so the prisons won't be as crowded as they are with the LIFE SENTENCE for ALL.

Polling numbers

Does anyone know if there are any polling numbers on Prop 5?

I'm generally very pro-union, but those guys are worthless human beings. They are actively campaigning to fuck up the lives of thousands of people just so they can make a buck.

Matt P.

U.S unions

U.S unions made the deal with the devil when Samuel Gompers decided that U.S unionism would be strictly about wages and conditions in each specific industry instead of the broader project of social justice. When United Autoworkers made the deal with G.M they removed an important voice for reform of health care. I think an important tool for reform is debating pro- drug law folks into supporting re-instating alcohol prohibition. Using their logic it is inescapable that we must re-instate prohibition for alcohol and TRY HARDER THIS TIME!!!!! I guess the danger is they will succeed but I think most of them probably drink and at tleast they will se this as an unpopular move....

thats a good idea

The above poster said, when debating pro-drug law folks, we should insist then that alcohol be included in prohibition.. but every time I mention alcohol being made illegal while drugs are illegal, I always get the same response....

alcohol is legal.. drugs are illegal. end of story.. like that justifies why? i tihnk people in this country have forgotten that drugs were legal before 1914.. and only until that time did the laws begin to change for the worse...


Prop 5 is misdirected

However well intended Proposition 5 might be, it will only deepen the cycles of drug dependency. Successful treatment requires a tough love strategy where the individual in treatment is spurred to continue his/her treatment program by the possibility that they will be subject to incarceration sanctions if they blow off their treatment. Although it may be true that failure is part of the journey to successful treatment, the solution is not to embrace failure, like Proposition 5 does, but rather to have strategies that reduce failure. Proposition 36 has a 75% failure rate, and Proposition 5 merely builds on those failures. All who care about successful treatment for addiction should reject this misdirected measure.

Ideally it is the tax payers that have to pay for jail time

Look around you...Look at your family. Look at yourselfs. Does it make since locking up everybody that smokes marijuanna? Does your son or daughter need to be locked up with someone who raped or murdered?

What this prop 5 does is allow law enforcement to be more productive in there day to day assignments. No longer will they be arresting everybody for everything. They will get to focus on

Property Crimes
Illegal immigration

The Tax payer will no longer have to pay for both the city prosecuter, the public defender, the extra judges, the extra jails, employees and training.

Director John Walters is correct in some ways. Law Enforcement will no longer spend time trying to arrest the occasional pot smoker who goes to work everyday making $9-12 an hour doing hard labor, since it is not him they really need to protect us from in society. What Law enforcement will be able to do is find those out on the street, raping, robbing, and murdering. These are the people who need to be locked up.

The treatment programs will be for those who need it. We know that many of our problem criminals have mental disorders. Some need to be locked up, and some need to be treated. These are the ones that Prop 5 will give our court systems the time, money, man power, and ability to sort out and properly arrive to the correct solution.

Today, our laws and legal system are not working for anyone, except those making money off the legal system. The one footing the entire bill is the average tax payer.

Director John Walters is fighting for his job, he has no interest in your welfare.

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