Imagine this: You have just been arrested for drug possession by a police officer. You are surprised, scared out of your mind, afraid of receiving a long sentence and are running out of options. Proposition 5 wants to give you two solutions: rehab in exchange for prison or a shortened sentence based on a new set of criteria for punishment. Sounds nice, right? Wrong.
In accordance with Proposition 36, Proposition 5 will continue to allocate spending on rehab programs for convicted drug users. According to a UCLA study done on Proposition 36, many of the drug users on parole either have never showed up for treatment or failed to finish their programs. Almost $460 million a year would be set aside for these already faulty programs with Proposition 5, and with California’s increasing deficit and the nation’s unstable economic standing, this is not the best investment.
The San Jose Mercury News editorial board agrees that Proposition 5 is flawed due to its “very complex initiative [that] would let drug dealers, drunken drivers, child abusers, burglars, thieves, con artists, embezzlers and others stay on the streets — even if they drop out of treatment, keep using and get arrested again or violate parole or probation.”
Furthermore, Proposition 5 would change the laws on drug sentencing. If someone were caught with less than 28.5 grams of marijuana, that person would receive a lesser penalty. Also, a methamphetamine dealer, along with other drug criminals, can be released from prison in as little as six months, when their usual sentence would equal three years. Although proponents claim this proposition will help the overcrowding of prisons and the criminals themselves, many argue that police officers will be unable to pursue serious drug convictions.
Martin Sheen, an actor and the co-chair for the No on Prop 5 Campaign, expressed that he “believe[s] in rehabilitation and not incarceration, but successful rehabilitation needs accountability and so often demands direct intervention in the life of someone who is addicted to drugs … Proposition 5 would cripple successful rehabilitation programs and dramatically limit the power of judges to help those who need it most.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and our childhood favorite DARE America top the list of those who strongly oppose the measures that constitute Proposition 5. Many organizations against drug use also oppose it, along with Lieutenant Gov. John Garamendi, the mayors of San Diego and Fresno and 48 Republican and Democratic members of the California State Legislature.
Many of the proposition’s opponents agree that the initiative creates a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for those who blame drugs for their acts in a crime. The rehabilitation programs would also not fund drug testing, which is a major component in helping drug abusers. Due to its many flaws, one thing is for sure: Proposition 5 is not the solution.
Melody Erhuy is a first-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.