Sunday, July 15, 2007

Alabama Invests in Treatment

An article in today's Birmingham News says that, Alabama will nearly double spending for drug and alcohol treatment over the next year.

I rejoice to see this change in attitude from our elected officials. Taxpayers across the state should rejoice as well, because spending money on treatment instead of incarceration pays off in the long run. Here are some statistics from other states that have taken a treatment approach.


In 1996, Arizonans voted in favor of Proposition 200, the Drug Medicalization Prevention and Control Act of 1996, which sends first and second time non-violent drug offenders to treatment rather than incarceration. According to a recent report conducted by the Supreme Court of Arizona, Proposition 200 saved Arizona taxpayers $6.7 million in 1999. In addition, 62% of probationers successfully completed the drug treatment ordered by the court.


In November 2000, 61 percent of California voters passed Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA), an initiative aimed at rehabilitating rather than incarcerating non-violent drug possession offenders. Under SACPA, certain persons convicted of non-violent drug possession offenses are given an opportunity to receive community-based drug treatment in lieu of incarceration.

In 2000, the independent Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) predicted that by treating rather than incarcerating low level drug offenders, SACPA would save California taxpayers approximately $1.5 billion over the next five years and prevent the need for a new prison slated for construction, avoiding an expenditure of approximately $500 million. LAO estimated that SACPA would annually divert as many as 36,000 probationers and parolees from incarceration into community-based treatment.

Already, progress reports show that tens of thousands of offenders have been placed in community-based treatment instead of jail thereby improving public health and saving the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regulation of treatment facilities has resulted in increased quality and accountability for hundreds of treatment programs, and the overall capacity of these facilities has increased.

To access the full text of the initiative, as well as media coverage and a progress report on the initiative, please see the


Maryland's new treatment law immediately diverts several thousand prisoners into drug treatment, saving the state's taxpayers millions of dollars a year in the process. It also provides $3 million in additional funding for treatment and gives judges new discretion in sentencing.

Washington DC

In November 2002, an overwhelming 78 percent of DC voters passed the drug treatment initiative, Measure 62. Under Measure 62 the city will provide substance abuse treatment instead of conviction or imprisonment to non-violent defendants charged with illegal possession or use of drugs (except those drugs classified as Schedule I); provide a plan for rehabilitation to individuals accepted for substance abuse treatment; and provide for dismissal of legal proceedings for defendants upon successful completion of the treatment program.

Additional Resources
"Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States," The Justice Policy Institute, 2000.

"Drug Use and Justice: An Examination of California Drug Policy Enforcement," The Justice Policy Institute, 2002.

"Cutting Correctly: New Prison Policies for Times of Fiscal Crisis," The Justice Policy Institute, 2003.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study, 1997.

Everything with Treatment vs. Incarceration is not roses, however. What is likely to happen here in Alabama is that forced government treatment becomes more focused on extorting money from poor people by dangling the threat of imprisonment over their heads. Treatment beds will be filled with non-violent marijuana offenders, who in the majority of cases have no signs of addiction and do not need treatment. These marijuana offenders will take up beds for people with real drug problems, like those addicted to pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, meth, and cocaine/crack cocaine.

Why will this happen? Because, marijuana consumers are more plentiful than all other illicit drug users combined. If we removed harmless pot smokers from the drug war equation, why then, there'd be no drug war.

1 comment: said...

Follow the money.