Alternatives to Incarceration

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Hundreds of Prop. 36 Grads Rally in Sacramento to Celebrate Program's Success!

MEDIA ADVISORY: April 17, 2007 Contact: Margaret Dooley (858) 336-3685 Hundreds of Prop. 36 Grads Rally at Capitol to Celebrate Program’s Success Treatment-Not-Incarceration Program Has Graduated Over 70,000 Californians and Saved Taxpayers Over $1.5 Billion in Six Years SACRAMENTO, April 17 – On Wednesday (April 18), hundreds of graduates and supporters of California’s six-year-old, treatment-instead-of-incarceration program, will gather on the West Steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento for the second annual “Prop. 36 Works!” rally to celebrate the program’s success and advocate for greater access to treatment for all Californians suffering from addiction. ********************************************************************* WHAT: “Prop. 36 Works!” Rally, 700+ to Attend WHO: Prop. 36 graduates (w/ success stories), treatment providers, faith leaders WHERE: West Steps, Capitol Building in Sacramento, CA WHEN: Wednesday, April 18, at 10:30am-12pm rally; 2pm march ********************************************************************* The rally comes just days after researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles released their latest analysis of Prop. 36, which finds that the program needs at least $228.6 million to provide adequate services, improve treatment outcomes and increase taxpayer savings. UCLA’s figure is $80 million higher than the state spent on Prop. 36 in 2005-06, and $109 million higher than the governor has proposed spending in 2007-08. According to UCLA, every Prop. 36 graduate saves $4 for every $1 invested. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated that the program generated net savings of $205 million in 2002-03 and $297 million in 2004-05. Conservatively estimating savings of $200 million per year, total program savings in six years surpass $1.2 billion. Nearly six years into Prop. 36, the number of people incarcerated for drug possession has fallen by 32% (5,000 people). By diverting so many into treatment, Prop. 36 rendered unnecessary the construction of a new men’s prison (saving an addition $500m) and also resulted in the shuttering of a women’s prison, bringing total savings to $1.7 billion. The UCLA report: http://www.adp.ca.gov/pdf/SACPAEvaluationReport.pdf For more on the rally, visit www.prop36.org # # # http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/04/13/state/n184353D91... UCLA study: More money needed for drug treatment program By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer Friday, April 13, 2007 (04-13) 18:43 PDT SACRAMENTO, (AP) -- California should devote more money to drug treatment if it wants to see a voter-approved diversion program improve, according to a fourth and final UCLA review of the 6-year-old initiative that was released Friday. Fewer than a third of drug offenders complete treatment programs required by Proposition 36, the study found. The measure, approved in 2000, requires treatment instead of jail for nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders. The 32 percent completion rate in the third year of the program was a decline from the more than 34 percent who completed treatment in the first two years, the researchers found. Renee Zito, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in February to head the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, said the state-sponsored study supports the governor's view that changes to the program are needed. Schwarzenegger last year signed a Senate bill that permits jail stints of up to five days to force offenders to continue treatment, or if they test positive for drug use. A judge blocked the law after the Drug Policy Alliance sued, saying the jail terms violated voters' intent when they passed the measure with a 61 percent majority. "The latest report shows that changes are necessary to improve the rate — the rehabilitation rate," Zito said in a telephone interview. Alliance spokeswoman Margaret Dooley countered that the UCLA study shows the state should be spending $228 million on drug treatment programs, "which means the governor's budget is $109 million short." An estimated $149 million was spent last year on Proposition 36 programs. The University of California at Los Angeles study suggests drug rehabilitation programs that would cost an additional $79 million. But the governor's budget includes just $120 million for next year. More money should go to intensive treatment and supervision programs, including residential programs and programs providing at least 90 days of treatment, the report suggests. In addition, the report advocates allowing the use of methadone, a narcotics replacement drug, which some professionals oppose. "The governor will look at all options," Zito said. However, she said many of the report's recommendations do not require significantly more money. The money is well-spent if offenders complete the program, the report found. The researchers estimated the state saves $4 for every $1 it spends on treatment if the offenders stay off drugs, get jobs and stop committing crimes.
Location: 
Sacramento, CA
United States

The Sentencing Project Releases New Report: Changing Direction? State Sentencing Reforms 2004-2006

[Courtesy of the Sentencing Project] Dear Friend: The Sentencing Project has released a new study reporting growing momentum for sentencing reform designed to limit prison population growth and reduce ballooning corrections budgets in the United States. Changing Direction? State Sentencing Reforms 2004-2006 finds that at least 22 states have enacted sentencing reforms in the past three years. The report further identifies that the most popular approach for reducing prison crowding -- implemented by 13 states -- was the diversion of low-level drug offenders from prison to drug treatment programs. Additional policy changes included: -Expansion of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. -Parole and probation reforms designed either to reduce time served in prison or to provide supervision options to reduce the number of revocations to prison. -Broader sentencing reform, such as modifying controversial mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Changing Direction? State Sentencing Reforms 2004-2006 argues that in order to build on these positive legislative developments, lawmakers must continue to enact evidence-based criminal justice policies. Recommendations of The Sentencing Project urge that policymakers: -Expand the use of drug treatment as a sentencing option. -Utilize intermediate sanctions for technical violations of parole and probation. -Repeal mandatory minimum sentences. -Reconsider sentence lengths. Follow this link to download a copy of the report, http://sentencingproject.org/Admin/Documents/publications/sentencingrefo... The Sentencing Project 514 10th St, NW Suite 1000 Washington, DC 20004
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Mexico wants to partially decriminalize drugs

Location: 
Mexico City
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
ABC News
URL: 
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=2871242

It Was the Best of Times: Drug Reform Victories and Advances in 2006

As Drug War Chronicle publishes its last issue of the year -- we will be on vacation next week -- it is time to look back at 2006. Both here at home and abroad, the year saw significant progress on various fronts, from marijuana law reform to harm reduction advances to the rollback of repressive drug laws in Europe and Latin America. Below -- in no particular order -- is our necessarily somewhat arbitrary list of the ten most significant victories and advances for the cause of drug law reform. (We also publish a top ten most significant defeats for drug law reform in 2006 below.)

Marijuana possession stays legal in Alaska. A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court case gave Alaskans the right to possess up to a quarter-pound of marijuana in the privacy of their homes, but in 1991, voters recriminalized possession. A series of court cases this decade reestablished the right to possess marijuana, provoking Gov. Frank Murkowski to spend two years in an ultimately successful battle to get the legislature to re-recriminalize it. But in July, an Alaska Superior Court threw out the new law's provision banning pot possession at home. The court did reduce the amount to one ounce, and the state Supreme Court has yet to weigh in, but given its past rulings, there is little reason to think it will reverse itself.

Local initiatives making marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority win across the board. In the November elections, lowest priority initiatives swept to victory in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica, California, as well as Missoula County, Montana, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Earlier this year, West Hollywood adopted a similar ordinance, and last month, San Francisco did the same thing. Look for more initiatives like these next year and in 2008.

Rhode Island becomes the 11th state to approve medical marijuana and the third to do so via the legislative process. In January, legislators overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to make the bill law. The bill had passed both houses in 2005, only to be vetoed by Carcieri. The state Senate voted to override in June of 2005, but the House did not act until January.

The Higher Education Act (HEA) drug provision is partially rolled back. In the face of rising opposition to the provision, which bars students with drug convictions -- no matter how trivial -- from receiving federal financial assistance for specified periods, its author, leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder, staged a tactical retreat. To blunt the movement for full repeal, led by the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, Souder amended his own provision so that it now applies only to students who are enrolled and receiving federal financial aid at the time they commit their offenses. Passage of the amended drug provision in February marks one of the only major rollbacks of drug war legislation in years.

New Jersey passes a needle exchange bill. After a 13-year struggle and a rising toll from injection-related HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C infections, the New Jersey legislature last week passed legislation that would establish pilot needle exchange programs in up to six municipalities. Gov. Jon Corzine (D) signed it into law this week. With Delaware and Massachusetts also passing needle access bills this year, every state in the union now either has at least some needle exchange programs operating or allows injection drug users to obtain clean needles without a prescription.

The US Supreme Court upholds the right of American adherents of the Brazil-based church the Union of the Vegetable (UDV) to use a psychedelic tea (ayahuasca) containing a controlled substance in religious ceremonies. Using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a unanimous court held that the government must show a "compelling government interest" in restricting religious freedom and use "the least restrictive means" of furthering that interest. The February ruling may pave the way for marijuana spiritualists to seek similar redress.

The Vancouver safe injection site, Insite wins a new, if limited, lease on life. The pilot project site, the only one of its kind in North America, was up for renewal after its initial three-year run, and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper was ideologically opposed to continuing it, but thanks to a well-orchestrated campaign to show community and global support, the Harper government granted a one-year extension of the program. Some observers have suggested the limited extension should make the "worst of" list instead of the "best of," but keeping the site long enough to survive the demise of the Conservative government (probably this year) has to rank as a victory. So does the publication of research results demonstrating that the site saves lives, reduces overdoses and illness, and gets people into treatment without leading to increased crime or drug use.

The election of Evo Morales brings coca peace to Bolivia. When coca-growers union leader Morales was elected president in the fall of 2004, the country's coca farmers finally had a friend in high office. While previous years had seen tension and violence between cocaleros and the government's repressive apparatus, Morales has worked with the growers to seek voluntary limits on production and, with financial assistance from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, begun a program of research on the uses of coca and the construction of factories to turn it into tea or flour. All is not quiet -- there have been deadly clashes with growers in Las Yungas in recent months -- but the situation is greatly improved from previous years.

Brazil stops imprisoning drug users. Under a new drug law signed by President Luis Inacio "Lula" Da Silva in August, drug users and possessors will not be arrested and jailed, but cited and offered rehabilitation and community service. While the new "treatment not jail" law keeps drug users under the therapeutic thumb of the state, it also keeps them out of prison.

Italy reverses tough marijuana laws. Before its defeat this spring, the government of then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi toughened up Italy's previously relatively sensible drug laws, making people possessing more than five grams of marijuana subject to punishment as drug dealers. The new, left-leaning government of Premier Romano Prodi took and last month raised the limit for marijuana possession without penalty from five grams to an ounce. The Prodi government has also approved the use of marijuana derivatives for pain relief.

Sentencing: Public Hearings on Illinois SMART Act Pack 'Em In

Supporters of an Illinois bill that would allow judges to divert low-level drug offenders into county "drug schools" instead of jail or prison are holding a series of public hearings across the state to drum up renewed support for the stalled measure. If the turnout in Chicago is any indication, public interest is high.

Illinois House Bill 4885, the Substance Abuse Management Addressing Recidivism Through Treatment (SMART) Act", would appropriate $3.5 million to allow state's attorneys' offices to open drug schools where low-level drug offenders could have their cases dismissed and arrest records expunged after completing an eight-hour course and -- depending on a mental health and addiction assessment -- possibly undergoing drug treatment.

The bill would allow counties to opt to follow the example set in Cook County (Chicago), where District Attorney Dick Devine pioneered the drug school idea. In the Cook County Drug School program, first-time drug possession offenders are offered mental health screenings, addiction assessment, and an eight-hour drug education program, and some -- depending on their assessment -- may be ordered into drug treatment. The county spends roughly $350 per person per year on the program, compared to the more than $21,000 it costs to incarcerate someone for a year.

After being introduced in January, the bill stalled in the legislature this fall, but supporters were able to pass a resolution calling on legislators to participate in a series of public hearings on alternatives to imprisonment and issue a report on those hearings. Hearings have already been held in Champaign, East St. Louis, and Chicago, with more set later this month for Decatur, Rockford, Rock Island, and Waukegan.

At the October 25 meeting in the Ashburn Lutheran Church in Chicago, the Southwest News Herald reported that "hundreds of people crowded into the church for the hearing, with some coming on buses from as far away as Rockford." Convened by the Developing Justice Coalition, a statewide alliance of community-based social service and religious organizations working on issues such as sentencing reform, prisoner re-entry, and public, the hearing featured several dozen speakers, including many ex-prisoners who said their drug arrest records had dogged them ever since. The coalition was organized by the Safer Foundation, which works to help ex-prisoners re-enter society.

Turnout for the hearing was "phenomenal," said Ashburn Lutheran pastor the Rev. Pam Challis. "It has been a long time since we had to put chairs in the aisles," said Challis, looking around at the standing-room only crowd after the meeting. "It is indicative of the fact that this is needed."

"I am a product of incarceration. I was in jail twice, and while I was incarcerated I learned absolutely nothing," said drug educator Armando Fox. After the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council gave him "a second chance" he was able to turn his life around. "Sometimes the choices we make aren't always the best, but we really shouldn't just throw people in prison. They don't learn anything."

But with its current drug laws, the state of Illinois throws quite a few people in prison. It spends nearly $250 million a year on its prison budget.

Attending the hearing were state Representatives Mary Flowers (D-31st) and Esther Golar (D-6th). Flowers, a 23-year veteran of the legislature, accused the body of passing "bad legislation" with its zero tolerance drug laws that set strict sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. "Some of those crimes should have been probational. The only thing we did was dig ourselves a bigger hole at your expense," she said.

The legislature is out of session now, but the SMART Act will probably come to a vote in January. Advocates are doing all they can do to show lawmakers there is broad public support, and packing hundreds of people into a hearing on a relatively obscure piece of legislation is a good start.

Web Scan

commentary on pregnancy and drug use, from Women's Enews

Maryland criminal justice reform page, including report on treatment and imprisonment, from the Justice Policy Institute

historic anti-drug address of Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Cultural Baggage for 09/15/06, including Judge Arthur L. Burnett & Vincent Hayden of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition and Howard Wooldridge of Law Enforcement against Prohibition

New JPI Report on Drug Treatment and Incarceration in Maryland

JPI is please to announce the release of our latest policy report, "Progress and challenges: An analysis of drug treatment and imprisonment in Maryland from 2000-2005." The report, authored by Kevin Pranis, shows that while many Maryland jurisdictions are making progress towards the goal of providing "treatment, not incarceration" for nonviolent substance abusers, the state's investments in treatment have not kept pace with demand, and the state spends far more to imprison people convicted of drug offenses than it spends to treat drug involved people through the criminal justice system. The report was covered in The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Baltimore Sun, The Carol County Times, The Maryland Daily Record, and other papers and electronic media across the state, and in Washington, DC. This new report, and five monographs we have written about state sentencing policy, along with recent news articles on Maryland sentencing and systems reform are featured on a new Maryland page of our website, which can be found at http://www.justicepolicy.org/projects/maryland/maryland.htm. Check back with us periodically, as JPI begins to build our website as a clearinghouse on Maryland drug sentencing and system reforms issues throughout the coming year.
Location: 
MD
United States

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

Latino Leaders Take Position Against Drug War

From the Drug Policy Alliance: Latino Leaders Take Position Against Drug War Tuesday, September 12, 2006 Last week in Los Angeles, 2,000 Latino activists and leaders from all over the U.S. gathered to set a political agenda at the National Latino Congreso. One of the issues they took on was the war on drugs, resulting in the unanimous passage of a resolution to investigate the real cost of the drug war. Authored by DPA's southern California director, Alberto Mendoza, the resolution called for supporting legislation that promotes sentencing reform as well as treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. The resolution also called for the formation of state task forces to compare current drug war spending to public education and health spending "so that states can understand the real cost of the war on drugs in the state budgets and in their communities." In passing the resolution, the Latino Congreso acknowledged the disproportionate representation of Latinos in jails and prisons, the exorbitant cost of incarcerating nonviolent offenders, and the existence of alternative strategies that focus on public health rather than criminal justice. The resolution noted, "We believe that nonviolent substance abusers are not menaces to our communities but rather a troubled yet integral part of our community who need to be reclaimed." Mendoza said, "As Latinos, we are finally waking up to the fact that this war is a waste of money and resources, all of which could help us re-build our communities and families instead of destroying them." In addition to working on the resolution, DPA co-sponsored the conference. Mendoza spoke at a workshop about DPA's harm reduction and syringe access work, while DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann spoke at a workshop and on a plenary. Mendoza said, "I'm proud that DPA was involved with this conference, and proud that the National Latino Congreso approved our resolution. It clearly indicates that Latinos are tired of the monumental negative impact the war on drugs has had on us and our communities."
Location: 
United States

Feature: Brazilian President Signs New Drug Law -- No Jail for Users

Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva last week signed a bill creating a new drug law in South America's largest and most populous nation. Under the new law, drug users and possessors will not be arrested and jailed, but cited and offered rehabilitation and community service. The new law marks an important shift in Brazilian drug policy, with drug users now being officially viewed not as criminals but as people in need of medical and psychological help.

"A drug user is not a case for the police, he's a drug addict," Elias Murad, the congressman who sponsored the bill, told the Christian Science Monitor after Lula signed the bill into law. "He's more of a medical and social problem than a police problem, and that's the way thinking is going these days, not just here in Brazil but the world over. We believe that you can't send someone who is ill to jail."

"Smoking marijuana is not a crime," agreed Paulo Roberto Uchoa, who heads Brazil's National Antidrug Secretariat. "A drug user is... someone who needs counseling and information. The ones who traffic drugs are the criminals."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/psicotropicusbanner.jpg
Psicotropicus banner promoting marijuana (maconha) legalization
With 170 million, Brazil has emerged as a major drug market. Marijuana (or "maconha") use is common, and Brazil claims the dubious distinction of being the world's second largest cocaine market, behind the United States. Brazil has traditionally imprisoned drug users, but that is expensive and it raises the risk they will be exposed to and join the country's well-armed and violent drug trafficking gangs or "commands."

Previously, small-time drug possessors faced between six months and two years in prison, but under the new law, they face only one or more of the following: treatment, community service, fines, or suspension of their drivers' licenses. Penalties for drug traffickers and sellers, however, have been increased slightly. Under the old law, dealers face three to 15 years in prison; now they face five to 15. The law also creates a new crime of being a "narcotrafficking capitalist," punishable by between eight and 20 years in prison.

While Brazilian government officials congratulated themselves on their progressive approach, not everyone saw the glass as half full. "Let's not fool ourselves, drug use is still a crime," said Martin Aranguri Soto, a post-graduate political science student studying imprisonment at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica in Sao Paulo (and who also serves as DRCNet's translator). "Yes, the new mantra is that this has shifted from being a police matter to a public health matter," he told Drug War Chronicle. "But people are still being punished for the choices they made, and if they don’t comply with the 'socio-educational measures' the law mentions -- whatever those are -- they can still be imprisoned for six to 24 months. As if they owed society something for using drugs or needed to be 'educated' or 'corrected.'"

And while Brazilian officials are touting the alternative penalties as a better approach, Aranguri Soto suggested their primary motivation was to cool off Brazil's overcrowded and overheated prisons, home to some of the country's toughest drug overlords (who operate from behind bars) and the scene of repeatedly violent rebellions, most recently in May, when more than 160 people were killed in prison riots and street-fighting organized by the drug commands.

"The big argument supporting the alternative penalties is that it will alleviate overcrowding in the prisons," he said. "You also hear rhetoric about avoiding 'moral contamination' -- the same old formula repeated by criminologists for almost 200 years now."

Prosecutor Ricardo de Oliveira Silva, who advocated for the new law, supported Aranguri Soto's contention, telling the Christian Science Monitor the new law could mean judges send one-third fewer people to jail. That would greatly reduce overcrowding, he said.

"This law does not decriminalize drug use," complained Aranguri Soto. "It keeps punishing users, but now it treats them like sick people. It activates therapeutic justice and legitimizes the state's moralizing role when it comes to individual conduct," he argued. "The new law is a trap, a modern, compassionate, healing, therapeutic trap."

Soto and his Brazilian colleagues have now joined a debate that has swirled in US reform circles for years but which intensified with the campaign for, and passage of, California's Proposition 36 in the November 2000 election. A more hopeful view was taken in a 2003 interview with Drug War Chronicle by King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project chief Roger Goodman. "Reform is always two steps forward, one step back," Goodman said, "but now this whole idea of treatment over incarceration has been mainstreamed. It's no longer radical. The next step is government regulation of drugs instead of government regulation of human behavior. That's much more radical."

Either way, Brazil's new law has been a long time coming. First introduced by Congressman Murad in 1991, the bill took five years to pass the lower house and another five years to pass the Senate. It then languished for another five years before the Lula government got around to signing it.

Now, Brazil has taken a half-step forward. The question now is how the new law will be implemented and whether it will serve as a stepping stone to an even more progressive drug policy or an obstacle to an even more progressive drug policy.

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