California’s Proposition 36: Not Every Drug Offender is Eligible

The California Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, better known as Proposition 36, has successfully helped thousands of non-violent criminal offenders suffering from drug or alcohol addiction to receive treatment instead of jail time.

In 2000, California enacted Proposition 36 to offer a more successful solution to incarceration. The text of Prop. 36 states: “Non-violent, drug dependent criminal offenders who receive drug treatment are much less likely to abuse drugs and commit future crimes, and are likelier to live healthier, more stable and more productive lives.” Additionally, the law was enacted to help better serve the community, save taxpayers money and improve public safety within the state.

Some indicate it has successfully completed all of these initiatives. In the first six years of its existence, more than 70,000 Californians completed treatment programs under Prop. 36. During that same period, the number of California residents sent to jail or prison for drug possession in California dropped by 32 percent. According to the University of California Los Angeles, the state saved $173 million in just the first year Prop 36 was implemented. An additional $2.50 for every taxpayer dollar invested in the program was saved.

Individuals NOT Covered Under Prop 36

Generally, individuals convicted of certain drug possession crimes in California are eligible for treatment under Prop 36; however, the law doesn’t cover all offenders under this category.

If a person is convicted of drug possession, he or she is ineligible for treatment if he or she has any prior convictions, within the last five years, for serious or violent felonies. (However, these offenders may still be eligible if they have already served their sentence and lived for five years without any new violent crime convictions).

People in California with recent drug possession or use convictions are also ineligible for treatment if they have simultaneous convictions for drug sale, manufacture or any other non-drug crimes.

Parolees convicted of minor drug possession or parolees who violate a drug-related condition of their parole might also be ineligible for treatment under Prop. 36 if the parolee has any prior convictions for serious or violent felonies. And, unlike others involved in Prop. 36, parolees enrolled in treatment programs will be monitored by parole authorities and could face prison time for violating their treatment program.


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