Categorized | Politics, Crime

Prop 5: Hope and Fear for the Justice System

BY N’JERI EATON//

Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Drug Rehabilitation Act, or NORA, will let voters decide whether to send drug offenders to treatment facilities instead of prison. In El Cerrito, it is an issue that has sparked a debate especially between two groups. On one side, are drug policy advocates who believe NORA will provide a comprehensive treatment program. On the other side, law enforcement officials who fear that Prop 5 will prevent offenders from being prosecuted.

Although local law enforcement officials agree that there should be more emphasis on rehabilitation, they don’t think Prop 5 is the solution.

“We don’t need this type of legislation,” said El Cerrito Police Chief Scott Kirkland told The El Cerrito Focus. “We are having a big problem right now with drugs in society, we don’t need to need to decriminalize them.”

Kirkland said that there are daily drug arrests and that methamphetamine is the “drug of choice” in the area. While he expressed sympathy for those struggling with drug addiction, he also sees drug offenders as problem in the community. “Those are the people who are committing burglaries, robberies, and the like to maintain their habit,” he said.

Supporters of Proposition 5 say that an improved and expanded rehabilitation plan will provide nonviolent offenders with the proper treatment and a range of other support services. The proposition also requires prisons to offer the same services to those who are currently incarcerated and parolees.

“It will contribute to the health and well-being of all Californians,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammulie, the Deputy Campaign Manager for Yes on 5.

According to Dooley-Sammulie, the most needed aspect of Prop 5 is the potential to offer drug treatment to youth offenders, “This is the first time there has been support services offered for youth. Before this, there was really nothing for them.”

In addition to substance abuse treatment for youth, Prop 5 will include family therapy, mental health interventions, and education or employment stipends.

Chief Kirkland recognizes that there should be more services offered. “There’s no question in my mind that the current system is broken,” he said. “Currently the Department of Corrections has gone away from the rehabilitation side of the equation.”

According to Department of Corrections data, Contra Costa county jails have an estimated 2,000 inmates, with 75% incarcerated for a drug- or alcohol-related offense. Prop 5 would ask state prison and parole systems to invest money into drug rehabilitation programs that could reduce repeat offenders. According to a report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Prop 5 will require $300 million in new spending to provide the treatment but it will ultimately save the state $1 billion in prison and parole costs.

Regardless of the outcome of Prop 5, Contra Costa County is already taking steps towards increasing substance abuse treatment. The county’s Department of Alcohol and Drug services hopes to add 60 beds to the West County and Marsh Creek detention facilities for a 90-day in-custody treatment program. The county is waiting for a final decision from the Board of Supervisors.

For more information on the proposition, consult your sample ballot or the following links:

http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov
http://www.prop5yes.com/
http://www.noonproposition5.com/

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