Prop. 36: A Threat to Society

Proposition 36 is a dangerous and misleading initiative that will only compound our growing drug epidemic.

The proponents of the initiative argue that since the war on drugs failed and nonviolent drug criminals are overcrowding the jails while violent criminals are released early, drug diversion programs are the only solution.

Yet Proposition 36 will inflict irreparable harm on society by prohibiting the option of jail for individuals convicted of using heroin, crack, PCP, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.

According to the summary prepared by the attorney general on the initiative, if a person is convicted of the possession, use, transportation for personal use or being under the influence of controlled substances, that person automatically receives probation and drug treatment. Under these Proposition 36 provisions, the drug offender would not be sent to jail for using illegal drugs.

This rigid inflexibility by the initiative does not leave room for a judge’s or the district attorney’s interpretation of the facts or whether the history of a defendant should warrant another course of action other than the mandatory treatment.

Another factor to take into consideration is that not all drug offenders are responsive to treatment, and many drug abusers pose a real threat to society if they are let back on the streets after “”treatment.””

Proposition 36 allows potentially dangerous drug abusers to remain on the street because the initiative’s safeguards are not strong enough.

Although the initiative bars from automatic diversion criminals previously convicted in California of serious or violent felonies, this does not apply to out-of-state convictions.

Therefore, according to the analysis by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation on the initiative, “”someone with out-of-state convictions for rape or drug-related murders must be diverted without regard to the obvious threat to public safety of keeping such a person on the streets.””

The most shocking part of the initiative is the fact that the drug conviction will be expunged from the record of the criminal once treatment is completed.

It is obvious that the intent of this initiative is not to stop the usage of illegal drugs, but to decriminalize drugs. “”Their agenda is clear,”” said executive director of the California District Attorney’s Association Larry Brown. “”They want to legalize drugs.””

This initiative is sending a very loud and clear message: “”Go ahead and use drugs, for you will get free treatment from the state, and we also will make sure your record is cleared so that it appears your conviction never took place.””

I cannot believe that if people break the law by using some illegal drug, they will have their records wiped clean once treatment is undergone; yet people who drink and drive will never get a conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol expunged from their records. Why the double standard?

Our society could tell individuals who receive a DUI that if they undergo treatment successfully at Alcoholics Anonymous, their records will be expunged as well. However, our society does not see that solution as an acceptable punishment. Drunken drivers will, for years, have the record of a DUI as a reminder that their actions were wrong, and that they are forced to take responsibility for their illegal activities.

Yet, under this initiative, drug abusers are given a “”get out of jail free”” card, and with treatment, a lily-white record.

Unfortunately, there are loopholes in this proposition to keep addicts addicted and the drug cycle going. For instance, a drug user has three chances to try to get clean before probation is revoked and he is put in county jail for 30 days.

The language of the initiative clearly displays that the authors care more about the possible monetary savings rather than what is best for society. The authors profess that the drug abuse should be a health problem, not a legal one. Yet the drug problem becomes society’s problem when the user becomes a danger to himself or others.

Proposition 36 is not the way to fix the drug epidemic. Clearly, the initiative is the wrong medicine for what ails our society. If Proposition 36 is passed into law, the drug abusers will thank us and then laugh at our stupidity, for we would have made their job easier by eliminating the threat of jail time, and instead, giving them probation and the option of volunteering. My, isn’t that a really harsh punishment?