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Drug Rehabilitation saving taxpayers

 

California taxpayers are saving more money than expected due to Proposition 36, which gives first- and second-time drug offenders the option of rehabilitation with probation instead of jail time.

Bill Zimmerman, who managed the campaign for Proposition 36 when Californians voted on it in 2000, said the State Office of the Legislative Analyst originally estimated the Proposition could save $250 million after several years.

The Legislative Analyst's Office provides nonpartisan fiscal and policy advice to the legislature.

"(They) didn't think the savings would add up to this until the third or fourth year, but we've exceeded those expectations already," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said money is being saved because providing outpatient treatment is cheaper than incarceration.

He said the cost for treatment per drug offender is about $4,000, whereas annual incarceration costs roughly $28,000 per inmate.

Though 69 percent of the 53,697 eligible drug offenders opted to receive treatment, the treatment's effectiveness is uncertain. The probability of repeat offenders could affect the money-saving quality of Proposition 36 in the future.

Also, if budget cuts lead the state to stop allocating $120 million to counties for drug rehabilitation, counties may have to pay the bill themselves or cut back from other programs.

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