Cuts to drug and alcohol treatment could send more addicts to California prisons

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AP Photo

California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, second from left, tours a prison with officials, Tuesday, March 6, 2007, in Norco, Calif.

The California State Assembly held a special hearing today in Sacramento on budget cuts for addiction treatment programs. The hearing looked at how those cuts will affect public safety.

The non-profit Drug Policy Alliance estimates that 10 percent of Californians abuse drugs or alcohol.

Addiction can lead some to crime to support a habit.

About 30,000 addicts are serving prison time for drug possession.

Judge Stephen Manley says they shouldn’t be there.

"Everyone comes back to the community after they get out of prison" Manley said. "Instead of having them come back without jobs, without treatment, without their medications, we should continue to treat them in the community."

The Superior Court judge runs the drug court in Santa Clara County. The court monitors 7,000 offenders sentenced to treatment instead of jail.

A decade ago, drug offenders comprised 30 percent of Santa Clara County’s jail population. That’s down to 18 percent today.

But Judge Manley says recent cuts in state funding sliced away half the slots in offender rehab programs.

"That means long lists and the inability to get offenders into treatment and a difficult time keeping them in treatment." Manley said.

That also increases the chance that addicts will wind up in state prison. And inside prison, few addicts can get the help they need to kick a drug habit.

Cuts that lawmakers enacted last year mean Corrections and Rehabilitation can treat only 8,500 inmates this year.

That’s a fraction of the tens of thousands of inmate addicts.

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