The State of California recently passed mandated drug treatment legislation, generally known as "Proposition 36." Effective July 1, 2001, persons convicted for new non-violent drug offenses and existing County probationers and State parolees who commit offenses contained within the statute are sentenced to probation and referred to substance abuse treatment in lieu of incarceration. Although Prop 36 was promoted to the voting public as a treatment program for first time offenders, analyses of the first six-month of data from San Diego County suggest that this not the population enrolled in the new program. Instead, offenders that have lengthy drug and criminal arrest histories make up the bulk of the population, and many are being diverted from prison sentences. Most participants require far more drug treatment than was originally planned for; and although the average length of self-reported drug use is 11 years, 43% reported never having received any prior drug treatment. Initial data also suggest the need for comprehensive ancillary services in addition to treatment to help make this population more likely to succeed. Most are unemployed, have very low levels of education, and many are homeless and mentally ill. The policy implications given this treatment population are discussed.
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