Proposition 5: The Most Threatening (to the Prison Industrial Complex)

Let’s see. On the no side of Proposition 5 there is the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation (a San Diego Indian tribe) and oh, the former thespian president of the United States, Martin Sheen.

On the yes side of Proposition 5 there is the California Nurses Association, the California Society of Addiction Medicine, the California Academy of Family Physicians, the League of Women Voters of California, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Democratic Party, the Drug Policy Alliance Network, oh, and George Soros, the man who said in 2003 that removing George Bush from office was “the central focus of my life, a matter of life and death” and then donated $24 million to help defeat him. Soros has now provided the major funding for the passage of Prop. 5.

Those endorsements probably won’t help you to make up your mind. So here are the broad strokes.

Prop. 5 on this year’s November 4 statewide ballot is officially called the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act. It is 36 pages in length. It is backed by a UCLA study that is 203 pages in length. Prop. 5 essentially extends and greatly broadens Proposition. 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which provided drug treatment over incarceration and was passed by California voters in a 61 percent landslide in 2000. It had a five-year test run and has been kept alive since 2005, with reduced funding. Data from that UCLA study indicate that Prop. 36 has produced 84,000 drug-treatment completions and saved the taxpayers about $2 billion in jail costs. Without Prop. 36, the drug abusers would have received no help. That’s also why area drug-treatment facilities such as Cri-Help, Genesis House and the Tarzana Treatment Center are backing Prop. 5.

No government program has slowed prison growth faster than Prop. 36. Since its inception, there has been a 32 percent drop in individuals incarcerated for drug possession in California.

That makes the Prison Industrial Complex, or as I call it, “the PIC,” very nervous. The PIC needs prisoners to justify its existence. It is the PIC’s economic food. Any reduction in prisoner intake threatens to shrink prison budgets, slow prison-guard salary increases and halt prison-staff job expansion. It’s like the military budget to the Pentagon. Without war, it is threatened. The so-called War On Drugs must continue if the PIC is to flourish. Ultimately, Prop. 5 threatens that. The PIC has done everything within its media reach to smear and defeat Prop. 5.

They have called it a Drug Dealers Bill of Rights, a get-out-of-jail-free card, an abuse of big government and a secret attempt by George Soros to legalize drugs. In the end, it is simply about drug treatment instead of incarceration.

With Prop. 5, even those younger than 18 would receive drug treatment for the first-time offense and avoid prison.

Martin Sheen would rather see them go to jail.


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