Eye on the Courts: Where is the Prop 47 Money?

Yolo County Courthouse - New

meth

This weekend, the Yolo County DA’s Facebook page linked a story from KCRA, “Meth takes frightening toll on addicts.” The comment was added, “Methamphetamine continues to be one of the most addictive and destructive drugs out there. Recent changes in the law in CA made it easier to acquire on the streets and less likely people will get any treatment.”

Of course, under Proposition 47, the law re-classified drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors – with the result being fewer prison and jail sentences and less lengthy court proceedings. The idea would then be to apply savings “to mental health and drug treatment programs, K–12 schools, and crime victims.”

However, opponents worried that, without the threat of prison time, enrollment in drug courts would drop.

The complaint by the DA’s office is nothing new.  Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig was a strong opponent of Prop. 47 and, as early as May, he went to the Board of Supervisors complaining that, over the last several years, “what we’ve seen is increasing property and violent crime in Yolo County.”

Mr. Reisig noted, “It was also assumed that there would be money for treatment, but that’s not true. There is no money from Prop. 47 until potentially 2016, and even that is yet to be realized.”

Indeed, the process for money to reach counties and services to reach those in need seems slow.

The state has set up a committee to determine allocations. According to a bulletin in September from CSAC (California State Association of Counties), the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) “was charged under the voter initiative with awarding grants intended to reduce recidivism using 65 percent of the funds that would be saved with the measure’s enactment. The Department of Finance is working to determine savings to the state as a result of Prop 47.”

They note, “Proposition 47 called for spending the savings on treatment programs. Pending legislation, if passed and signed into law, provides additional programmatic priorities for the types of recidivism-reduction services that would be funded, such as reentry housing for offenders who have served their sentences and have been released from incarceration, substance abuse treatment programs and employment-related services.”

The Department of Finance will determine a preliminary estimate of the state savings by January 2016.

The November bulletin also notes, “Assembly Bill 1056 provides additional programmatic priorities for the types of recidivism-reduction services that would be funded, such as reentry housing assistance for offenders who have served their sentences and have been released from incarceration, and employment-related services such as job skills training.”

As Zachary Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, wrote in an op-ed, “We need to give the measure time to work, to be evaluated and to deliver on its promise of community investment.”

Stephen Manley, a Superior Court judge in Santa Clara County, wrote this fall in an LA Times op-ed, and acknowledged, “It’s true that, under Proposition 47, enrollment in some drug courts has dropped. This is not surprising. After all, eligibility for many drug courts requires a felony conviction, and participation is optional.”

However, he writes, “this trend doesn’t mean we need to throw up our hands or scrap Proposition 47. On the contrary, it suggests that drug courts should adapt, as they have before, to the new order. Because Proposition 47 has downgraded most drug offenses, drug courts should accept those convicted of misdemeanors. Misdemeanors still carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail, more than enough to serve as a disincentive.”

Moreover, he concludes, “if critics of Proposition 47 are truly concerned about the future of drug courts, there’s a better way to funnel offenders into treatment than going back to the way things were. That’s to get rid of the big-stick sanction method and simply reform sentencing policy so that treatment is a requirement for addicts, not an option.”

In the meantime, major changes and allocations of money take time and it would behoove the critics of Prop. 47 to allow the system time to get the money to those who need it. Instead of pumping money into a system that did not work – the previous system – we should work together to help make the new system work better than the old system.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 Comments

  1. zaqzaq

    “Moreover, he (Judge Manley) concludes, “if critics of Proposition 47 are truly concerned about the future of drug courts, there’s a better way to funnel offenders into treatment than going back to the way things were. That’s to get rid of the big-stick sanction method and simply reform sentencing policy so that treatment is a requirement for addicts, not an option.”

    That is a stupid comment.  The only way to enforce the requirement for drug treatment in sentencing is jail which is the big stick.  What other sanction does a judge have if the criminal refuses to participate in drug treatment.  And now that it is only county jail instead of state prison it is a little stick.

    The big issue for meth addicts is finding effective drug treatment programs and getting the addicts to want to participate.  If they do not want to change the programs will not work.  Does Yolo county have a drug court?  How does it work?  What is the big stick that provides incentive to participate?

    David,

    Why don’t you do an article on the available drug treatment programs in Yolo county and their effectiveness?  What effective programs could be added?  What is the cost?

    1. Miwok

      It is a good point, ZZ, but the look I get at this program, and ll of these criminal Restorative Justice things, is wasting money on kids whose parents are crying for help, but “only if it doesn’t disrupt” their lives too much.

      They are addicts. They should not get a choice, because just like asking a drunk if they understand their rights, they are not capable of a lucid thought. They are addicts. The parents may have fostered this, enabled this, and perpetuated this until someone dies, usually an innocent victim.

      On another note, responsible good kids, are seeing former drug addicts get ahead of them by getting Training and Jobs, see the State give more to these criminals than they. Is it any wonder thieves are taking over? They hire a lot after drug treatment… How do they remove the larceny in their hearts?

  2. Davis Progressive

    “The only way to enforce the requirement for drug treatment in sentencing is jail which is the big stick.”

    yeah and he argued that the possibility of six months to a year of jail time is a sufficient stick.  if the treatment was written into the law, failure to follow the law results in additional penalties.  this doesn’t seem that complex.

    the problem we have is that the people enforcing this stuff didn’t buy into prop 47 to begin with, so they are slow playing it to make sure it doesn’t work.

    1. zaqzaq

      If it wasn’t that complex then it would be working, right?  You also assume that Prop 47 is or will work.  I have my doubts but we will not know for a number of years at which time if it is not working the voters may change it back.

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