Wednesday, October 1, 2008

2008 Ballot Watch: Proposition 5: Nonviolent offenders

By Andy Furillo -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lower-level criminals with major drug problems would be in line for more
treatment and less prison time if voters approve the Nonviolent Offender and
Rehabilitation Act of 2008.


Proposition 5 seeks to build on the Proposition 36 drug treatment initiative
California voters passed in 2000, the success of which is subject to debate.

The 8-year-old measure was designed to divert lower-level drug criminals out
of the criminal justice system. Only a third of offenders who enter
Proposition 36 programs complete them, a UCLA study found last year.

But the same study also found that the measure saves taxpayers $2.50 for
every $1 spent and $4 for every offender who completes the program.

Billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, who has backed drug
decriminalization measures in other states, provided the financial backing
to get Proposition 5 on the ballot.


Proposition 5 sets aside $150 million in state spending this year and $460
million next year, with cost of living and population adjustments
thereafter, for expanded prison and parolee drug programs.

Expands diversion programs to get more addicts out of prison and into

Earmarks 15 percent of funding for juvenile offenders.

Splits off parole and rehabilitation operations from the state corrections
agency under a new secretary, with a new 23-member commission to oversee

Keeps technical parole violators out of prison. Serious and violent
offenders would be placed on parole supervision for longer stretches.

Reduces some inmates' prison terms through good-time credits.

Makes marijuana possession an infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

Expands the Board of Parole Hearings from 17 to 29 members. Senate
confirmation would no longer be required.


The Legislative Analyst's Office says the program could cost taxpayers $1
billion a year, but save $1 billion in reduced prison and parole
expenditures. It also could save $2.5 billion in future prison construction


Supporters had raised approximately $4.5 million as of Sept. 24, including
$1.4 million from New York financier George Soros, $1.4 million from retired
New York businessman and philanthropist Bob Wilson, $700,000 from Goldman
Sachs senior partner Jacob D. Greenfield of New York and $500,000 from
University of Phoenix founder John G. Sperling of Phoenix.

Opponents had reported about $288,000 in contributions as of Sept. 24,
including $175,000 from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and $60,000
from the California Narcotics Officers Association.


New York financier George Soros

Drug Policy Alliance Network

California Public Defenders Association


• Proposition 5 would ease California's prison overcrowding crisis by
treating drug addiction as an illness.

• The initiative would provide $65 million in funding for youth drug
treatment programs that don't exist now.

• It would save money over time in reduced prison construction and operation


California District Attorneys Association

California Association of Drug Court Professionals

California Chamber of Commerce


• Proposition 5 in effect would decriminalize drugs and spark increases in
crime by diverting offenders out of the criminal justice system.

• The initiative would undermine the inmate rehabilitation and re-entry
components contained in last year's Assembly Bill 900.

• It would create new bureaucracies with no accountability and add costs
through higher crime rates.


Read previous installments in 2008 Ballot Watch:

See supporters' Web site:

See opponents' Web site:

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