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Undertreatment spurs new arrests among drug ofenders diverted under California’s Proposition 36


Findings are disapointing, but some changes and more time could improve results

A new UCLA study released Nov. 26 reports higher arrest rates among drug offenders diverted to treatment during the first six months of California’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA), commonly known as Proposition 36. The findings show SACPA clients were 48 percent more likely to be arrested for a drug offense within a year of admission than clients entering treatment through other criminal justice diversion procedures, and 65 percent more likely than clients who report no criminal justice diversion to treatment. Researchers found no difference in arrest rates for property or violent crimes.

Compiled by a team from the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, the study appears in the November 2004 issue of Criminology & Public Policy, a peer-review journal of the American Society of Criminology edited by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Commentaries by Judith Appel, Glenn Backes and Jeremy Robbins of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, and James Inciardi of the University of Delaware are published along with the study’s finding.

Release URL, if available: The URL must point to the specific release, not a general page of releases or your organization’s main homeAs one contributing factor, the study noted that Proposition 36 clients were more likely to receive outpatient care rather than more-intensive residential care -- even when considering severity of addiction and complicating factors such as mental health problems. The highest re?arrest rate among Proposition 36 clients occurred among those reporting severe drug problems but who received outpatient care.

"Undertreatment appears to be a key ingredient in the recipe for recidivism among drug abusers, particularly for clients with severe drug problems," said David Farabee, lead author and research scientist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. "But even after controlling for this, SACPA clients remained more likely to be arrested for a drug offense than clients referred to treatment under more traditional practices."

Farabee noted that the increased flow of drug abusers into treatment as a result of SACPA coupled with severe budget constraints throughout the state pose difficult challenges for the program administrators at the county level. "Our findings encompass only the early months of Proposition 36. New programs often need time to become established and to operate as intended. Program outcomes could therefore change," he said. "Also, the study was based on several California counties, but not all. What we saw in these counties may or may not be true statewide."

The UCLA research team examined treatment participation and recidivism rates of 688 SACPA clients from 43 programs in 13 counties diverted to drug treatment between July 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2001. They compared this sample to 1,178 non-SACPA criminal justice clients and 1,882 non-criminal justice clients in the same community-based treatment programs during the same time frame.

The research was based on data collected with support from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Analysis was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Passed by voters in 2000 as Proposition 36, SACPA represents a major shift in criminal?justice policy. Adults convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses and otherwise eligible for SACPA can now be sentenced to probation with drug treatment instead of either probation without treatment or incarceration.

Offenders on probation or parole who commit nonviolent, drug-related offenses or who violate drug-related conditions of their release also may receive treatment. Implementation strategies vary by county, reflecting regional needs and resources.

Dan Page | EurekAlert!
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