«From Inception to Implementation: How SACPA has affected the Case Processing and Sentencing of Drug Offenders in One California County DISSERTATION ...»
It might be based on a short risk/needs assessment conducted at or prior to sentencing with severity of addiction taking precedence.
and allow the court to more closely monitor some offenders. There are some drawbacks to adding a second court, specifically consistency and the issue of judge shopping, however C58 is clearly overburdened at this point and cannot adequately monitor all the felony offenders on Prop36 probation in the county. The situation is not going to get better, and may in fact get worse with the increase in arrests.
As mentioned, additional resources are also necessary to increase the number of residential treatment beds and to improve the treatment provided.
According to the treatment providers interviewed, the funding provided by Prop36 funds is insufficient to provide quality treatment and many high quality treatment facilities are not willing to take Prop36 clients because the compensation is insufficient. One treatment provider argued that Prop36 clients are “never going to get what they need there because there’s not enough money to pay for the right treatment” (Confidential Informant TAL, personal communication). The need for proper resources goes beyond the fiscal issue and impacts the success of the program as well as the perception of rehabilitation in general and Prop36 specifically.
One of the changes I would fund, treatment that is more closely linked to the level of addiction. One of the first things we noticed in implementation in Orange County is that there were far fewer residential treatment beds available than there were people who needed them and the number of beds have gone down, not up since the initial start of the program. So extending the resources necessary to provide a level of treatment that matches the level of addiction would make it much more successful. The other thing, I think that if there was more accountability, more resources available, mostly for treatment, but also for monitoring, so that probation could actually monitor a greater percentage of cases and bank fewer cases would help hold people accountable and help them succeed as well. [Public Defender] Do we need to look at implementing some of that [residential treatment, better supervision, life skills training, employment…] so we don’t have the cycle continuing? That’s what it seems like from where I’m at. I have people coming back not even a year after they’ve been successfully terminated from Prop. They come back with another case. They’ll find any excuse to go back to using, and they get re-arrested, and here we are again. Its job security to me, but what benefit is it doing to the offender, to the community, to the criminal justice system? [Probation Officer] I think the other reason that Prop 36 is so negative is that people read what a failure it is and they think that rehab is a failure. Rehab isn’t a failure. It’s this program that is a failure.… But the sad thing is that all these other poor innocent people that simply have a drug addiction that they need help with are not getting the help that they need. [Judge]
Law enforcement officers know very little about Proposition 36, the requirements for offenders, or the success rate, but they are frustrated because they see the negative effects of drug addiction on a daily basis. They see offenders continue to use drugs and get arrested while on Prop36 probation and they hear offenders joke about Prop36 regularly. From where they stand, Prop36 is not effective. A couple of officers suggested that it would be useful if they had periodic updates at briefing and that it would be affirming to hear success stories from offenders in their community that Prop36 actually helped. It is unknown whether or not other law enforcement officers would also find such information encouraging.
I thoroughly believe that if the cops started to see it work, that they’d be more for it. And again, you know, they might even want to consider getting some of the people who were successful more involved. [Jail Deputy] A renewed effort to build coalitions between probation officers and law enforcement officers should be revisited, this time with supervisors from the probation department and interested law enforcement agencies coming together to brain storm ways to support one another. Providing each law enforcement agency with monthly or quarterly lists of Prop36 probationers living in their jurisdiction (along with the name of their assigned probation officer and probation terms) is relatively easy and not very time consuming, yet it would provide a tool to law enforcement that they did not have before and could improve accountability of offenders living in communities in which law enforcement officers take a proactive role in monitoring these offenders. Assigning one law enforcement officer or a team of law enforcement officers to Prop36 probationers in each jurisdiction would provide a centralized contact for information within the department and between departments.
I think if they (police officers) worked hand-in-hand with the court, had a closer relationship with the court. Do we need to have probation officers meet with every single person? No, but what if you had a list of people who were on Prop36 probation that went out to every officer during briefing? “You know Sally lives here. She’s been living here for 20 yrs, and she’s always using. Now she’s on Prop36 and she’s on search and seizure.” [Judge] Of course, this could lead to additional arrests, which would exacerbate the problems and end up harming offenders. However, having treatment providers attend briefings periodically to appraise officers of treatment issues, while radical, could negate part of that and also be beneficial by teaching officers about addiction and the process of recovery, thereby encouraging officers to have a more holistic understanding of the issues with Prop36.
As with any study, there are limitations. One limitation of this study is that it is based on the experiences of 62 practitioners in one county in Southern California. Other counties may have different experiences implementing and adjusting to the law. Similarly, interviewing additional practitioners could very well bring to light different issues. Furthermore, at this point, the findings have not been analyzed at the agency level – it is possible that future research could reveal that department size or philosophy may be a driving factor in how law enforcement officers perceive and react to the law. Despite these limitations, important lessons have been learned from this study, including, practitioners’ frustration and intentional circumvention of the law and changes in ground level response that may not have been anticipated.
Future studies should focus on expanding the scope of this study to additional officers and counties throughout this or other states that implemented similar legislation; or using a similar approach to study other legislation and policies (such as medicinal marijuana laws or the impact of jail overcrowding on law enforcement, courts, and prisons). Future research should also expand the scope of study to include addicts, Prop36 offenders, and treatment providers. Law enforcement officers contend that more addicts do not care if they get caught. The question is, is this true? Informal conversations with a few addicts suggest that it might be. Furthermore, what do Prop36 offenders think about Prop36? Do they really think it is a joke (as practitioners contend)? Finally, what are treatment providers’ experiences with Proposition 36? How would they change it?
Also, it is probable that had other practitioners been interviewed responses would be different. For example, it is possible that the law enforcement officers interviewed were the ones in their respective departments who were best acquainted with Proposition 36 and that other officers not interviewed had less knowledge of the law and/or had not changed their behavior in the ways indicated by interviewed officers. Thus a future study should use survey methods to reach a larger number of law enforcement officers to ascertain the actual scale of frustration and behavioral change that occurred, particularly at the patrol officer level.
Additionally, Worrell, et al. (2004) found that crime in California increased as the size of probation caseloads in California increased. Proposition 36 dramatically increased the size of probation officer caseloads in Orange County.
Hence, future research should attempt to ascertain what impact “banking’ offenders has on probationer success, recidivism and crime in the community. Furthermore, some practitioners suggested that Prop36 equalized justice for rich and poor offenders by mandating a sentence (probation) that once was reserved primarily for privately-represented offenders. The current study was not designed to investigate nor validate this hypothesis; however this would be an important issue for future research to address. Similarly, the same study could explore whether offenders arrested for felony drug crimes but convicted of misdemeanor drug crimes have any specific characteristics in common (such as financial resources). Finally, this study estimated the number of offenders diverted from incarceration in Orange County as a result of Prop36. Future studies should use these estimates to estimate the costs and benefits that may have resulted from diversion from incarceration and treatment for these offenders (and society in general).
“Time and again, street-level workers express their deep sense of personal accomplishment in helping individuals. They do not tell stories about efficiently implementing public policy; they tell stories about using policy and the system to serve individuals” (Maynard-Moody and Musheno, 2003:49). “Only when the focus of policy making includes the ‘living law’ that is practiced on the streets can the public policy goals underlying the ‘law on the books’ be realized”(Aaronson Et al., 1981: 101). If the policy goal of Prop36 is really to get offenders to stop taking drugs and to be productive members of society (rather than just eliminating the use of incarceration), then we need to (1) allow practitioners input into how to best achieve that goal (including the use of shock incarceration if necessary), (2) commit to using evidence-based practices at the program-level and the treatment-level, and (3) make enough money available so that practitioners can do their jobs effectively and effect positive change. It is not sufficient to put inadequate funds toward a program of this magnitude while tying the hands of professionals entrusted to monitor, supervise, and treat these individuals, all the while expecting good things to come. It is not going to happen. It just discourages practitioners and limits the success of the policy. The number of residential treatment beds must increase in order to truly give Proposition 36 a chance of success – otherwise it may continue to be seen by criminal justice practitioners as only a get out of jail free card with no real benefit to anyone, police, courts, corrections, offenders or their loved ones.
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