A newly released UCLA study reports that California taxpayers save nearly $2.50 for every dollar invested in nonviolent drug offenders eligible for substance abuse treatment under the state's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (SACPA), or Proposition 36. Over a 30-month follow-up period, this represented a savings to state and local government of $173.3 million for offenders entering SACPA during its first year. For offenders who completed their required drug treatment, nearly $4 was saved for each dollar expended.
Conducted by Integrated Substance Abuse Programs researchers at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the study compared the cost differences between all SACPA-eligible offenders during the program's first year with those for a before-SACPA group of similar drug offenders. Both groups were assessed over a 30-month follow-up period.
Savings related to SACPA were largely due to reductions in jail and prison time, while cost increases were due to drug abuse treatment and to subsequent arrests and convictions primarily related to later drug offenses. Probation and parole cost changes were modest as were increases in health care costs and taxable earnings.
"The cost savings are dramatic, but with increased system accountability measures and improved offender management, as well as incentives to community programs for better treatment entry, retention, and completion rates, they could rise even higher," said study co author M. Douglas Anglin, UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. "Our suggestions for boosting those savings include further improvements in the coordination of services and continuity of care within counties, better participant screening, improved matching of services to needs, and attention to special populations of drug offenders, including minorities and offenders with psychiatric problems."
Among specific findings outlined in the report:
. Over a 30-month follow-up period, taxpayers saved nearly $2.50 for every dollar spent during SACPA's first year, compared with a before-SACPA group of similar offenders. This represented a total saving of $173.3 million to taxpayers.
. Over a 12-month follow-up period, taxpayers saved $2.20 and $2.30 per dollar spent during the first and second years, respectively. Total taxpayer savings were $140.5 million in the first year and $158.8 million in the second.
. For drug offenders who completed treatment after entering the SACPA program during its first year, over the 30-month follow-up period taxpayers saved nearly $4 for every dollar spent.
. A disproportionately large share of criminal justice costs were observed for the 1.6 percent of SACPA eligible offenders who had five or more prior convictions in the 30 months before their SACPA-eligible offense. Costs for this subgroup were 10 times higher ($21,175) than those of the typical offender ($2,254).
The study examined costs in eight areas. Five involved the criminal justice system: jail, prison, probation, parole, and arrests and convictions. Two involved social service areas: drug treatment and health care. The final area allowed accrued costs to be reduced by taxes paid by offenders on earnings and purchases.
All analyses used the "taxpayer perspective," focusing on costs to state and local governments. Costs were adjusted to 2004 dollars using the consumer price index or, as appropriate, the medical price index.
Proposition 36 was approved by California voters in 2000. Adults convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses and otherwise eligible for SACPA could be sentenced to probation with drug treatment instead of either probation without treatment or incarceration. Offenders on probation or parole who commit nonviolent, drug-related offenses or who violate drug-related conditions of their release could also receive treatment. Under the law, SACPA funding was scheduled to expire June 30, 2006. The governor's budget proposes to maintain the General Fund transfer to the Substance Abuse Treatment Fund at $120 million on a one-time basis for 2006-07 conditioned upon the Legislature passing reforms to the program.
The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, in a competitive bid process, chose UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs to conduct the evaluation of SACPA over five and one-half years, starting in January 2001 and ending June 30, 2006.
The late Douglas Longshore led the evaluation over its first five years, creating an environment of scientific rigor, agency collaboration and public trust that allowed the evaluation's success. In addition to Longshore and Anglin, study co-authors include
Angela Hawken and Darren Urada, all of the Semel Institute's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at UCLA.
The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA is an interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. For more information, see http://www.npi.ucla.edu/.