The goal of this research project was to determine how drug offender case processing and sentencing patterns changed as a result of California’s Proposition 36, Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA) and to examine how the criminal justice system responded to this legislation.
The impact that Proposition 36 has had on offenders has been influenced by the adaptation methods chosen and employed by practitioners in criminal justice agencies throughout California. Findings reveal that street level bureaucrats at every stage of the criminal justice system found ways to circumvent and/or diminish the effect of this law, including, but not exclusive to law enforcement, attorneys, judges, and parole agents. These coping strategies were widespread, but not universal. They were deliberate reactions to a law that many dislike and most felt was being taken advantage of by drug offenders. Beyond the complaints, frustration, and fiscal constraints that inhibited proper treatment and supervision, Proposition 36 has had several positive benefits for the criminal justice system, as well as offenders which include: (1) improve legislative collaboration between criminal justice agencies and treatment providers; (2) provide substance abuse treatment for more than 24,000 offenders in Orange County (140,000 statewide); and (3) divert an estimated 3,400 offenders per year in Orange County from incarceration and other negative responses. It appears likely that Proposition 36 has had a net widening effect on drug arrests. On November 7, 2000, the State of California passed Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA). This law marked a significant change in California drug policy by mandating treatment in lieu of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. This study supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) used a case study approach to understand how Proposition 36 changed the case processing and sentencing of drug offenders and the agencies tasked with processing and supervising these offenders in Orange County. The research illustrates how “law on the books” plays out as “law in action” every day. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes A-F
Date Published: January 1, 2008