Ballot Measure Promises Treatment, Not Prison Bars, for Drug Addicts

Opponents say violent criminals will go free

Supporters of Proposition 5 say the ballot measure offers a common-sense approach to drug addiction.

Instead of putting drug users behind bars, where they get little -- if any -- treatment or counseling, Prop. 5 would allocate $460 million for treatment and counseling for drug users and addicts arrested for crimes.

Proposition 5 would also shorten parole for certain drug offenses, while it increases supervision for serious and violent felonies. Proponents say Prop. 5 will save the state more than $2 billion dollars, because fewer new prisons would have to be built to house criminals.  

The ballot measure  would also establish a new drug  treatment program for "at-risk" teens.

"So if a school teacher sees that somebody's having a problem in the class room , they can actually refer them to treatment," says Prop. 5 supporter Gretchen Burns Bergman, co-founder of "A New PATH," a local drug treatment advocacy group.

But Prop. 5 opponents are urging voters to reject the ballot measure. They claim it will increase crime, by requiring the release of 45,000 criminals. By giving those convicts early release and shortened parole, Prop. 5 will  make California cities more dangerous, critics say.

Prop. 5 opponents claim that many of the drug users and dealers covered by the proposed laws are not harmless, non-violent criminals, but dangerous felons who should remain behind bars.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says Prop 5 would go easy on those who commit  property crimes, identity theft, vehicular manslaughter. 

"You can say the drugs made you do it," Dumanis explains. "You can avoid punishment, you get into treatment, and you're still able to use drugs in the process."

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