By Robert J. Hansen
A bill that would allow Yolo, Santa Clara, and San Joaquin Counties to develop a secured drug treatment facility and offer it to individuals arrested for drug-related offenses, instead of jail, passed through the Assembly Health Committee with no opposition votes today.
California Assemblymember Kevin McCarty authored AB 1928 in partnership with Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig and Yolo County Supervisor Gary Sandy.
Naturally, Supervisor Sandy was pleased to see the bill moving forward.
“The population we are looking at is ill and suffers from serious drug addictions. But they also are committing significant crimes in our communities which must be addressed,” Sandy said. “We need to try something new and this bill will give those who would be spending time in jail or prison a choice and opportunity to get the help they need in a secure facility. It’s the humane way to treat them.”
Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor disagrees and thinks that AB 1928 is substantially similar to AB 1542 which Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed last October out of concerns of a “false choice” and “evidence has shown coerced treatment hinders participants’ long-term recovery.”
Saylor agreed with the governor about forcing treatment onto people.
“Unfortunately, it is being described as an alternative to incarceration when individuals are being compelled to choose between treatment or prison,” Saylor said.
Saylor thinks this is an erosion of what Prop. 47 has provided in reducing the penalties for drug possession.
“This program gives people the choice of trading one jail for another,” Saylor said.
Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven testified in favor of the bill, according to a press release from the Yolo District Attorney’s Office.
“A 40-year-old is convicted of felony commercial burglary. He also is addicted to heroin. He committed the crime to feed his drug habit. He’s been to prison four times and three years ago was convicted of assault causing great bodily injury,” Raven said. “Throughout his life, he’s never gotten the necessary help to get well. Hope CA would give him an alternative to state prison.”
Gary Burt, Case Manager for Emerging Scholars, told committee members, “I understand the concerns, however from my perspective this pilot program gives individuals the opportunity to work on their underlying substance abuse issues while also giving these individuals a new start in life by expunging their record.”
The California Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) opposes AB 1928, saying that it “will force people to involuntary, locked treatment.”
DPA said communities need supportive services for people with substance use disorder and not a new mode of incarceration.
“This is not a solution for individuals with substance use disorder. It is ineffective and unethical,” DPA said on Twitter.
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors is planning to bring AB 1928 up for discussion at an April 12 meeting.