Proposition 36, the California law that enables non-violent drug offenders to get counseling rather than go to prison, is on the rails in yet another California county, Santa Cruz. That’s about 300 people a year who, having been caught with illegal drugs in their pocket – enough for themselves only, not dealers – who will be told to get addiction help and be given a list of places that offer drug rehab, but will not be given any financial help to do that.
Sounds fair really – don’t you think? Why should we, the taxpayers, pay for that person to go to drug rehab?
Well, for one thing, it’s either rehab or prison. And rehab is a lot cheaper. The cost varies from county to county, program to program, but analysts say it roughly equates to $2.50 saved for every $1.00 paid towards rehabilitating drug offenders. That’s a lot of taxpayers dollars.
But it does kind of make you feel like you’re in between a rock and hard place, right? Especially since you really feel $1.00 coming out of your pocket every time you see the taxes taken out of your paycheck or write your annual IRS check, but you never really experience the joy of getting back $2.50. In fact, you can’t really see that $2.50 anywhere – California owes $265 billion.
Getting people off drugs so they can be productive members of the California citizenship might be a good thing – obviously the state is producing far less than it’s consuming, or someone involved in the state budget just doesn’t have a clue what to do with money.
On a more personal level, I’m sure the ‘every $1.00 spent on drug rehab saves $2.50 for taxpayers’ applies with even higher numbers in families. How much is your son or daughter being drug-free, happy, productive and out of danger worth to you? How much is it costing you to have them addicted to drugs – financially and emotionally? I would say lots more than 2.5 times the cost of drug rehab.
Ever look at it that way? If you’re tired of living with drug addiction and abuse, call Drug Rehab Referral to find help.
I’m still having trouble getting my head around how California can cut drug court / treatment programs to save money. California’s drug problems are serious enough to warrant putting more money into treatment, not less. It could actually make them money.
One study (Urban Institute and Caliber Associates) showed that, nationwide, 75% of drug court graduates have not been arrested again in the two years following graduation. Bearing in mind that most drug court rehab programs are still following up with the person at that time, you can pretty much bet that these people are not back on drugs either.
That might not sound like a big deal until you consider what usually happens for drug-related offenses: 95% return to drug abuse after release from prison, and 60 – 80% commit a new crime after release.
So, 75% doing well after two years is a significant change.
You can also see the results in other ways. New York state, for example, was able to close down four prisons because of offering drug rehab through drug courts, and has saved $250 million.
So, why is shutting down such a successful program considered a way of saving money for California?
This simply seems like bad money management to me. What is going on with California? Has it reached the stage of running so close to the wire that they actually lose money every week, despite the fact that there’s money coming in? Like a person who has a paycheck coming on Friday, but by Tuesday they’re already broke. So, they borrow $200 on Tuesday, then on Friday pay back the $200 plus $40 interest. At the end of the year have taken home about $2000 less. Never get ahead, never able to invest in what they would need to do to change their situation.
Drug abuse costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year – one way or another. If we want to have billions more to spend, we need to put more pressure on public officials to spend money on things like drug addiction rehabiliation that will, in the end, not only save billions, but save lives, lower the crime rate and turn current drug addicts and criminals into contributing members of society.
Since 1990, the prison population in California has increased by nearly 80%, and the prisons are operating at nearly double their capacity. The cost of housing a prisoner is now $46,000 a year. One of the programs that can help the situation is getting first time offenders and non-violent offenders – with drug-related offenses – through drug rehab rather than sticking them in prison.
A drug rehab program – even the best of them, the kind that not only gets the person off drugs but actually rehabilitates them so they can stop being drug addicts, stop being criminals, and integrate back into society and a normal, productive life – costs about ½ the cost of housing a prisoner. And many of the prisoners are going to be doing more than a year in prison, which adds to the costs, will not be rehabilitated at all by the experience, and will most likely end up back in prison.
A vicious cycle.
But California’s $12B in debt now, and to offset some of that debt, the drug treatment programs may be coming to an end.
The California drug rehab program has been around for about 10 years and, at times, has had as many as 36,000 participants in a year. That’s a savings of about $250M per year (assuming those 36,000 prisoners would only stay in prison for 1 year) or $2.5B approximately.
Of course, that’s also not taking recidivism into account – i.e. how many of those offenders, had they not gone to rehab, would end up back in prison and costing the state (read ‘taxpayers’) even more? Not to mention the increase in crime, the health care costs of overdosing and sick drug addicts in the ER, and so on. Very expensive in more ways than one.
How can it possibly make sense to save money in California by cutting drug rehab? The same people who are committing these crimes are going to go to prison instead.
Does anyone have a clue how this is justified fiscally?