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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

California Officials to Jail Drug Offenders

California Officials Jail Drug Offenders

Federal judges ordered California to reduce its prison population, but this week the Schwarzenegger administration is set to vote on increasing funding to police anti-drug units, which would allow California officials to jail more drug offenders. The California Emergency Management Agency was to decide yesterday whether to route $33 million in federal money to narcotics task forces around the state that have had trouble getting the upper hand on drug criminals. It seems strange that funding for drug treatment programs was cut in half from $120 million two years ago. The increase in money for anti-drug units will most likely help to convict low level drug offenders that would be better served by going to treatment and it would cost the state less than imprisoning them. There seems to be a lot of contradiction in California legislation, on the one hand funding for prisons and treatments has been cut, on the other hand judges are ordering the state to lower the prison population by more than 40,000 in the next two years; but Schwarzenegger wants to channel more money into putting drug offenders into prison, the same type of offenders that are responsible for the over crowding to begin with.

"The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that the increase could yield 13,000 arrests during the coming year, resulting in prison time for nearly a quarter of those apprehended, at a cost of $160 million" according to the LA Times. Lopsided is the only word that comes to mind when considering that drug treatment funding has been cut and just last month legislators approved a $1.2-billion reduction in prison spending; yet, the Governor would have more money be put forth to make more arrests and ultimately work against lowering the prison populations state wide. "While one side of the government is addressing prison overcrowding, another side seems to be acting directly counter to that goal," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.

At some point the state needs to realize that this is a vicious cycle that will be impossible to break as long the various branches of government are working against each other. As long as California continues to flood its prisons with low level offenders without providing them treatment options they will without a doubt be more likely to be repeat offenders. Education is the best solution to prison population reduction, which exists in drug treatment facilities - not prisons.

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