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Press Release: Religious Leaders Endorse Petition to Protect Landmark Drug Treatment Law

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 7, 2006 Contact: Anthony Marsh (213) 989-1630 Religious Leaders Endorse Petition to Protect Landmark Drug Treatment Law Elected Officials Ignore Prison Crisis, Scrap Country’s Most Effective Prison Diversion Program. Clergy Announce An Immediate Backlash. Los Angeles, CA – Over 50 religious leaders throughout Southern California joined Progressive Christians Uniting in urging Governor Schwarnzenegger to protect the landmark drug treatment law known as Proposition 36. Clergy representing Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino and surrounding regions have endorsed a petition asking the Governor to veto a bill which would unconstitutionally alter the program designed to provide drug treatment rather incarceration to nonviolent substance abuse offenders. Six years ago, over 60% of California voters overwhelmingly passed the drug treatment initiative Proposition 36. Now it is in jeopardy of being changed. “Changing a voter approved ballot initiative is not only unconstitutional,” says Progressive Christians Uniting Executive Director Rev. Peter Laarman, “but it is morally unconscionable. The law is successfully saving lives and repairing families.” Since the treatment-instead-of-incarceration initiative (Prop. 36) passed, 60,000 people have graduated from Prop. 36 program drug treatment. Far fewer people are in jail or prison for drug use as a result. A recent study by UCLA researchers showed that taxpayers have also saved over $1.3 billion dollars through prison diversion. In a recent poll, over 70 percent of voters say they would vote for Prop. 36 if it were on the ballot today. Even the legislatures’ own lawyers and the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) have declared that certain provisions of the bill are unconstitutional because they violate the true intent and purpose of Prop. 36. The bill (SB-1137) proposed by Senator Denise Ducheny of San Diego sits on the desk of the Governor to decide. If he fails to veto the bill, he is likely to see a long and costly legal battle over the constitutionality of the bill. He will certainly see a backlash from religious leaders seeking to help rather punish people for their addictions.
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