|Proposistion 200 Working, Saving Money,
Says Arizona Supreme Court
Arizona's law that mandates probation with drug treatment instead of incarceration for first- and second-time, nonviolent drug offenders has been effective and saved the state more than $2.5 million in its first fiscal year, which ended in June 1998, according to a report by the Arizona Supreme Court. Of 2,622 people on probation diverted into treatment in Arizona, 77.5% subsequently tested negative for drugs, according to the report (Christopher S. Wren, "Arizona Finds Cost Savings in Treating Drug Offenders," New York Times, April 21, 1999; Hector Tobar, "Drug Diversion Law in Arizona Paying Dividends," Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1999; V. Dion Haynes, "No-jail drug policy works, Arizona says," Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1999).
The treatment-instead-of- incarceration measure was part of Proposition 200, the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act, an initiative approved by two-thirds of Arizona voters in November 1996. The law mandates that drug offenders be sentenced to probation with treatment once they have been convicted or plead guilty. In 1997, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that judges may impose up to a year in county jail as a condition of probation. The treatment regimen is tailored to the individual's drug dependency needs. Some only attend education classes one to three times a week, while others are enrolled in intensive outpatient programs.
The report, issued on April 20, determined the savings by calculating the difference in cost between incarcerating a drug offender or putting the offender on probation and in drug treatment. Savings are expected to increase in the current fiscal year as more offenders are put into treatment programs or finish probation. The report assumes that the 551 persons sentenced under the terms of Proposition 200 would otherwise have gone to prison for an average of six months. Mary Judge Ryan, the chief deputy Pima County attorney, said most people convicted of first-time drug offenses would have been back on the streets. Barnett Lotstein, a special assistant Maricopa County attorney agreed: "No judge will send a first-time offender to prison" (Howard Fischer, "Drug Initiative's Savings Cited, But May Not Exist," Arizona Daily Star, April 21, 1999).
Arizona finances drug treatment, in part, through a luxury tax on alcohol, a provision of the 1996 initiative. Drug offenders are also expected to help pay for their treatment. 77.1% of drug offenders made at least one payment.
"Opponents of Proposition 200 said this was a `prodrug' initiative," said Arizona Appellate Court Judge Rudy Gerber. "As it turns out, [the law] is doing more to reduce crime than any other state program, and saving taxpayer dollars at the same time."
Similar programs that call for treatment rather than incarceration are being used throughout the United States. Drug courts offer offenders treatment as an alternative to trial and a criminal record. "Drug czar" Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he wants to reduce the nation's 1.8 million prison population by 250,000 by promoting options for drug treatment.
ARIZONA PROGRAM LAUDED BY MAJOR EDITORIAL BOARDS
"[Arizona] voters showed that they were tired of paying the costs of a bad idea. In requiring that drug offenders be treated before being freed of supervision, they have made themselves safer. By treating drugs as a health problem, they have shown states like New York, which spends $700 million a year to imprison drug felons, a better way" (Editorial, "Arizona Shows the Way on Drugs," New York Times, April 24, 1999).
"[Drug] users who receive treatment, even under court order, are less likely to commit new crimes. This, in turn, produces additional savings and security. Fact is, drug abuse and drug-related crime are a bipartisan epidemic. Likewise, the inadequacy of lock-`em up strategies is a nonpartisan fact. Against that, why shouldn't Arizona keep convicted users out of jails and in treatment? Why doesn't every state?" (Editorial, "Treatment in lieu of jail works," USA Today, April 30, 1999, p. 12A).
"The federal government and other states could take a lesson from Arizona's experiment and begin shifting their anti-drug emphasis from interdiction, criminalization and other supply-side strategies to treatment and rehabilitation" (Editorial, "How to help addicts and ourselves," Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1999).
"The United States has been losing the war on drugs because its strategy has been hopelessly one-sided. The government has been spending a disproportionate amount of money and resources attempting to cut off the supply of drugs, while doing little to stem the demand. If our leaders are serious about defeating this social and economic scourge, they should study Arizona's approach to the drug problem, which appears to be paying off" (Editorial, "A Different Approach to Drugs," St. Petersburg Times, May 27, 1999).
Arizona Supreme Court - 1501 West Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007-3231, Tel: (602) 506-7353. Report online at: <www.supreme.state.az.us/media/releases.htm>.
Arizona Appellate Court Judge Rudy Gerber - Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, Phoenix, AZ 85007, Tel: (602) 542-3492, Fax: (602) 542-4833, E-mail: <email@example.com>.•