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California's Proposition 36 aims to help drug offenders out of prison, saving the taxpayers millions. But as Stephen James uncovers, the goal of this plan isn't necessarily fulfilled. Proposition 36, also known as the Substance Abues and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA), received great praise from its sponsor, the Drug Policy Alliance, who said that the plan would save California taxpayers $1.5 billion over five years. But James discovers that the law just may be a very expensive failure. SACPA allows for criminal offenders convicted of nonviolent drug possession to be sentenced to drug teatment instead of probation without treatment or jail time. James found that only about 10 percent of SACPA defendants actually complete the entire program.
"The incarceration of so many drug-only offenders makes no economic sense." Since the 1970s, a "prison build-up" began in the U.S. Since 1980, incarceration costs have grown from $ billion annually to $45 billion. Drug offenders make up the largest area of growth in prison populations. By comparing the social and real costs of certain crimes, it would seem that locking up drug offenders is very inefficient while programs that teach new work skills seem to show lower rates of recidivism.