A COSTLY, DANGEROUS DRUG TREATMENT INITIATIVE
I was disappointed to read Peter Schrag's comments regarding Proposition 5 in his Sept. 2 column, although I can understand how well-meaning and thoughtful people can be misled by this deceptive initiative.
I agree with Schrag's concern for those who are drug dependent, but I oppose Proposition 5 because I believe it will do so much harm to so many people.
Fighting drug addiction is an issue that is very close to my heart. I believe in rehabilitation and not incarceration. But successful rehabilitation needs accountability and so often demands direct intervention in the life of someone who is addicted to drugs, rather than waiting for them to seek treatment "when they are ready."
Too many addicts are never ready or don't live long enough to become ready. That's why drug courts and judicial involvement in pushing offenders into treatment and keeping them there is vital to making rehabilitation work for so many drug-dependent individuals.
Proposition 5 promises rehabilitation - but actually prevents it. Instead of helping break the addict's cycle of self-destruction, it actually feeds the cycle by allowing addicts to continue using drugs while in treatment, without any consequence.
Proposition 5 would cripple successful rehabilitation programs and dramatically limit the power of drug-court judges to help those who need it most. It will take limited resources away from proven programs and waste them on mandated programs that have already been shown to be failures.
Proposition 5 will cost billions; if it could deliver on its promises that would be a price worth paying, but it won't deliver because it can't. It is fatally flawed at its foundations because it rewards those who continue to take drugs while in treatment, instead of requiring accountability.
While virtually all of California's sheriffs, district attorneys, police chiefs and probation officers oppose Proposition 5, it would be a mistake to suggest that their opposition is no more than a knee-jerk response. Enlightened law enforcement leaders are among the strongest supporters of drug-treatment programs and consider such programs a vital part of the solution.
Sadly, Proposition 5 shifts funding away from programs that demand accountability and into "harm reduction" programs whose goals are to make drug users better-informed consumers. Highly effective programs like Delancey Street or Narcotics Anonymous require those enrolled in treatment to quit using drugs, which means they wouldn't qualify under Proposition 5's "harm reduction" theory. Under Proposition 5, those in "treatment" could continue using drugs and even commit additional felonies, without fear of consequences. That alone should cause serious-minded people to question Proposition 5.
Yes, Proposition 5 does shorten parole from three years to just six months for drug dealers caught with up to $50,000 of methamphetamine, and, yes, Proposition 5 could allow those arrested for auto theft, identity theft and a host of other crimes involving victims to escape real consequences if they continued to violate the law.
We all need to look beyond the simplistic and the cliche and recognize that truly effective drug treatment programs with real accountability are in our best interests. The real problem with Proposition 5 is that it is not about stopping drug use. If it were, it would mandate funding for ongoing drug testing instead of prohibiting that funding, and it would not give drug sellers a reward for the harm they do to so many.
This poorly designed and dangerous initiative will deliver more drug addiction and more pain for thousands of addicts, their families and our state's communities. It is opposed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the League of Latin American Citizens and prominent treatment professionals. It is opposed by former Gov. Gray Davis and by Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully and Sheriff John McGinnis. I strongly urge that this dangerous and misguided measure be given the scrutiny it deserves.