Word Warriors Public Speaking Club

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Information on Non-Violent Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2008 (NORA) measure in California

I received the following email from the President of the California Narcotic Officers Association. I feel strongly that we need to challenge this ballot measure as individuals, parents and mentors to the future of our country. I merely wanted to advise everyone of the serious problems that will occur with passage of this measure. Those of us who are former law enforcement as well as those that work criminal defense know how much of a failure Proposition 36 has been and this is going to aggravate those problems to the nth degree.

Proposition 36 has not only let down the public but it has also let down those assigned to the program. Before Propositions 36, a candidate for drug treatment was sent to drug court, an approximately one year program with only 3 hours a day unsupervised. The success rate which continues today is approximately 90% with a 10% recidivism rate. With the implementation of Proposition 36, a candidate for drug treatment is now sent to a one year program with only 3 hours of supervision a day and there is less than 10% who complete the program successfully. Does anyone else see the problem with this? The thing that voters didn't realize with the initial vote for proposition 36 was that this failed program was hidden in fine print while the proponents only advertised the legalization of Marijuana for medical benefits. Most of California voted yes, including me not realizing that we were also voting in a failed treatment program to replace an extremely successful program.

We , as Californians and PIs, are faced with a ballot measure that, if passed, will aggravate the 75% failure rate of Proposition 36 as well as have profound public safety implications. The ballot measure is titled, “Non-Violent Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2008” (NORA). NORA takes the weakest elements of Proposition 36 and aggravates them. Where Proposition 36 permitted three failures before the courts had discretion to impose meaningful sanctions, the NORA proposal gives a defendant five failures before any meaningful accountability occurs.

Please understand that failures in treatment not only harm the defendant, but they can have a profound public safety implication. California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Russell, was recently murdered by a Proposition 36, non-accountable, treatment failure. This tragedy is a pointed example of the public safety folly of a proposal that will now permit five failures, rather than the objectionable-enough three failures.

A mere cursory examination of this proposal reveals some potentially destructive provisions. These provisions are in addition to the five time failure provisions of the initiative that we have already mentioned:

  • It gives drug dealers a “preferred parole period.” Drug dealers will be released from parole in only six months, rather than the standard three year parole requirement. We see no reason to provide an early parole release for those who poison communities. Moreover, by reducing the accountability for drug dealers, the unintended consequence of NORA is that it increases the chances that a drug using defendant will relapse.
  • It permits people charged with other crimes to escape accountability for those crimes simply by alleging that the crime in question was attributable to their drug use. This, of course, could permit them to enter a five time failure NORA program. In other words, a methamphetamine using spousal abuser may have his spousal abuse case set aside while he is sent to a five time failure NORA program.
  • It permits a defendant who is in a treatment program to continue to use marijuana; all the defendant need do is find a compliant doctor (many of whom advertise that they will give a recommendation for a fee) who will make a “recommendation” that the defendant “needs” to use marijuana – probably to cope with the stress of his being arrested in the first place!
  • It reduces penalties for possession of an ounce of marijuana to an infraction. Ironically, this creates a disincentive for marijuana users to enter treatment, since the infraction is the functional equivalent of a traffic ticket, and doesn’t even carry a criminal record.
  • The cost “savings” of the proposal are not only undocumented, but the reality is that this proposition will probably result in an increase in costs to police agencies, courts, probation, district attorneys and public defenders.
The proponents of NORA already have a large amount of funding established to purchase advertising time and space. I am asking each member to conduct a grass roots effort to help defeat the NORA proposal. Please discuss this proposal with your families, friends, co-workers, citizens, City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, civic groups and community groups. The NORA proposal, if passed will have serious public safety implications.

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