The Defeat of Prop 5: California

The defeat of Proposition 5, in California, was a major blow to the entire area of Drug Addiction Rehabilitation. Whether they know it or not it was also a disastrous outcome for the people of California. It was nothing more than a rude awakening to the destructive power of a Union gone astray from the Society it serves. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (Union) in California is the largest, wealthiest, most powerful lobby group in the State. Corrections is a cottage industry in the California economy. The CCPOA includes prison Corrections Officers and Parole Agents, and it numbers 30,000 or more members. These are well paid, highly compensated in benefits, and like minded people. They lobby against the professional drug treatment field, constantly. California has implemented Substance Abuse Programs or SAP’s into literally every prison in the State. Some sources say there are 33 prisons, some say 36, but regardless the number changes regularly because they build prisons, not colleges in California. There are in fact, more State Prisons than State Colleges, and these are not small endeavors. Several California prisons have more than 6,000 inmates. For example, San Quentin is one with over 6,000 inmates and it employs over 900 correctional officers and over 600 other staff. This is really big business. And by establishing these so-called “treatment programs” in every prison, they are now integral in the number of employees needed. This at the same time makes the CCPOA bigger and stronger. They have exceptional legal counsel and feed lots of dollars into HMO’s, local economies, and lobbying in Sacramento, the State Capitol. This is POWER! The frightening problem is their power to keep the SAP’s in business. Well, you might ask, why is that a problem? It’s simple! The SAP programs don’t work.

A report released Feb. 21, 2007, by the State of California, Office of the Inspector General, states emphatically, in bold print in the header, “The state’s substance abuse treatment programs for inmates do not reduce recidivism, yet cost the state $143 million per year.” In other words, as I previously stated, they don’t work. The following is a quote from that same study:

“Effective treatment for substance abuse offers one of the state’s best hopes of reducing the number of inmates who repeatedly cycle in and out of prisons,” said Inspector General Matthew

Cate. “Successful treatment programs could reduce the cost to society of criminal activity related

to drug abuse, change lives, and help relieve the state’s prison overcrowding crisis. But so far the

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has squandered that opportunity,” Cate said.

The report goes even further in announcing that “One five-year University of California, Los Angeles, study of the state’s two largest in-prison programs found, in fact, that the 12-month recidivism rates for inmates who received in-prison treatment was slightly higher than that of a control group.”

Another recent study by the University of California estimated that 42 percent of California inmates have a “high need” for alcohol treatment and 56 percent have a high need for drug treatment, and recidivism rates for California inmates in general continue to be among the highest in the country.

Yet another recent study showed that inmates who received in-prison treatment followed by at least “90 days of community-based aftercare” did have significantly lower recidivism rates than non-participants. This begs us to question why are we not sending these addicts and alcoholics straight to the Community Based Providers? This is what Proposition 5 of 2008 was designed to do. The facts I have just given did not make it into the public arena, in support of Prop 5. The supporters did not have the funds or I’m guessing the resources to get detailed info to the Voters! (You can find this document by doing an online search for the Office of the Inspector General, California, Government and looking for the Study released Feb. 21, 2007.)

But, the CCPOA accompanied by MADD (who I had supported prior to this year) did have the money to bombard the people with a systematic ration of disinformation. They convincingly made it sound like this proposition was going to “en mass” just release the Meth and Crack onto the streets and into the communities of California. Proposition 5 was in fact a proper, economically wise, safe solution to finding a way to fund the more effective community based “Treatment Providers” in the Substance Abuse Treatment field. As with the “deemed success”, Prop 36, violent offenders would have been excluded from participation, as well as people with felony “Sales” convictions. But the propaganda machine of the corrections union, CCPOA, made it sound like the prison gates were being opened, and whoever chose to would leave. The wording of their TV spots was actually ridiculous, but founded in the “fear” works philosophy so well implemented by the Bush Administration for over 7 years. Guess what, it worked. The people fell for it. I must say that having MADD on board probably legitimized the whole campaign of terror. Too bad!

On the average it costs over $40,000 to keep an inmate incarcerated for a year. FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! They can participate in a community based treatment program for fees ranging from $20k to $30k for a year. What you really have to understand here is that it only take 90 days in these programs to reduce the rate of return to prison. If you put the inmates into treatment for a full year, these numbers are going to incrementally improve. It is actually accepted among drug treatment professionals that a full year in treatment, over briefer lengths of time, can improver their own effectiveness between 50 and 90 percent.

The “science of addiction” and its implementation into treatment programs over the past ten years has been a revolution in knowledge of the “disease concept” of addiction and alcoholism. This disease is recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association , the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization, and has been for decades. The drug counseling certification agencies have moved into State Universities and are turning out highly capable professionals in the field of drug abuse counseling. But they are constantly challenged by the medical and psychiatry fields because they are effective and paid much less than a doctor or psychiatrist. It’s money again. As with the prison employees, the purse strings are pulled so the defense mode kicks in. CAADAC, the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors has very high standards for certification that can only be obtained by a combination of courses in State University Drug and Alcohol Certification, Extension Programs, and by passing both written and oral examinations through a testing board. These kind of agencies exist over the entire country. Many private, or community based treatment programs in California require CAADAC certification over a 4 year degree, and others require a combination CAADAC credentialing and job experience in place of the degree. But the most effective treatment, that of community based providers, who the overwhelming majority of these counselors work for has no significant government funding in place. Nearly all of it goes to the failed prison SAP’s.

The opponents of Proposition 5, in California, would have a big pat on the back coming for their highly effective campaigning, if wasn’t for the fact that all that they actually did was just out spend the dedicated, under paid professionals in the drug treatment field! This is a true shame for the misinformed and the old “crime and punishment” advocates of California… the taxpayers. California Corrections has squandered over a Billion Dollars, since 1989, on prison programs that don’t work, and the public remains in the dark about the truth. But the real losers here, are the countless Addicts and Alcoholics, and their families, who are imprisoned rather than treated for a Disease that can effectively be arrested, allowing them to become “productive, taxpaying members of Society. The effect of not rehabilitating human beings afflicted with this dread disease is so far reaching that it is truly heartbreaking. Families remain broken and dysfunctional when it need not be so. The problem then extends into welfare costs and overcrowded publicly financed mental clinics, too. Financially failing county hospitals have their emergency wards overflowing with children and spouses from these families who inevitably wind up being medically indigent, using the emergency room as their clinic. As it is they remain a “burden on society” rather than an asset, because incarceration does not change the Addict. They re-offend and go back to prison where the career criminals teach them how to become more of a criminal than they ever would have been if not subjected to the prison environment and population. “Genetically prone to Addiction” children witness all of the behaviors and follow right in the footsteps of their addicted parent because the combination of genetics and environment almost assuredly doom them to do so.

Proposition 5 could have been the beginning of a turn-around for California, and may have helped the rest of the country follow suit, eventually. But, an organization desiring overtime and government perks for it’s members, that is also the largest, most powerful, union in the State, lobbied, bought and sold out the citizens of California, in the dark spirit of greed overwhelming true justice and hope, by running a campaign of propaganda that misinformed and misled the people into a very serious mistake. On top of all the human suffering and loss, we’ll waste over $140,000,000 every year until we stop doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result!!!

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