After the Shotgun Wedding: Criminal Justice and Treatment Collaborations Under California's Prop 36 Drug Policy Reform

Amanda Noble, Public Health Institute
Dorie Klein, Public Health Institute
Richard Speiglman, Public Health Institute
Robin Miller, Public Health Institute

In 2001 California's much-watched Proposition 36 significantly changed the state's criminal justice sanctioning of persons convicted of felony or misdemeanor drug possession, by requiring that they be offered treatment as a condition of probation in lieu of incarceration. While it was clear that the popular voter-passed initiative's intent was to encourage treatment instead of punishment, the language gave considerable leeway to state and county officials concerning procedural implementation. In order to identify local implementation issues, the authors conducted two waves of key informant interviews in a sample of eight counties just before and after the law took effect, and a third wave in a smaller sample one-and-a-half years after implementation. Drawing on these data, we describe the counties' and organizational stakeholders' approaches toward criminal justice agencies and community-based treatment providers collaborating, as required by Prop 36. We also discuss the underlying contexts for both the uniformities and the divergences found in collaborative procedures, and the perceived consequences for defendants and clients of these procedures. Findings include some noteworthy and unexpected results with respect to predicting which policy approaches might favor successful implementation of a drug law reform such as Prop 36.

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Updated 05/20/2006