Over at the California Policy Report, Frank Russo notes a tension between California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’sstated position on “the will of the voters” as expressed through initiatives and his approach to Prop. 36, the California initiative that allows first- and second-time nonviolent drug offenders to be sentenced to treatment rather than jail.
In just-released recordings of the Governator, Russo notes, Schwarzenegger speaks about the tendency of Sacramento to “jump on” an initiative “and tr[y] to undo it, or change it, and always against the will of the people.” Of course, Schwarzenegger has also proposed deep funding cuts for Prop. 36, in spite of the initiative’s popular support and demonstrated success. Funding was also cut for Prop. 36 in lastyear’s budget, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Russo asks: “Shouldn’t we be asking the Governor for a little consistency here[?] He shouldn’t complain in his taped conversation about what he characterizes as legislators undoing what the voters have passed without holding himself to that same standard when it comes to Prop. 36.”
I’m sure there are reasons to be critical of Prop. 36: no program that exists in the real world is perfect, and it’s never easy to deal with drug addiction in a way that feels entirely satisfying. On the other hand, it looks like an effort is being made to dramatically u
nderfund the program and then blame its inevitable failures on its non-carceral approach rather than the more obvious problem, which is simply that it is completely starved of resources. If we funded our
state prison system as poorly as we fund Prop. 36, it would be an absolute disaster. Or, more accurately, it would be more of a disaster than it already is. One might think that the governor, who declared the prison system to be in a state of emergency, and is now forcibly shipping inmates to facilities in other states to ease our massive overcrowding, would be hip to this reality and eager to encourage programs that respond to California’s problems.