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Controversial California Proposition Would Give Some Drug Offenders Treatment, Not Jail Time

Aired November 2, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In California, we see a lot of controversial referendums, and this year is no exception. Voters will decide on Proposition 36, which calls for treatment for some drug offenders instead of automatic jail time.

The debate has created some strange bedfellows as CNN's Jennifer Auther tells us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ask someone in recovery or on probation if the threat of jail makes it easier to earnestly seek treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jail was a prime motivator for me -- this time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It holds some water, but after I get into treatment and get into myself and discovering myself, it really doesn't -- it's not a big threat.

AUTHER: On Election Day, California voters have an opportunity to make sure non-violent first and second-time offenders avoid incarceration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Prop. 36 puts nonviolent drug users into effective treatment and job training.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: This dangerous initiative hurts California's drug courts and opens the door to fly-by-night treatment with no accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AUTHER: Actor Martin Sheen, whose son Charlie battled addiction, joins the California attorney general and a group of prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and judges opposing Prop. 36. They call it a veiled attempt to legalize drugs.

JUDGE ELLEN DESHAZER, CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT: It would prevent the court from putting the person in custody as part of their treatment. I can order the person to test, but then I have no real tools to make sure that the person is testing.

AUTHER: On the other side, those sponsoring Prop. 36 say the U.S. is losing the war on drugs.

BILL ZIMMERMAN, CAMPAIGN FOR NEW DRUG POLICIES: Our elected officials are so frightened to come out against this failed policy that all they can say to the electorate is, give us more money to spend on this policy that doesn't work.

AUTHER: For a preview of what to expect, Californians need only look next door to Arizona, where voters passed a similar measure in 1996.

(on camera): Arizona's director of adult probation says, since the law passed, 61 percent of about 930 people who completed drug treatment have remained drug free and have no new arrests; but those same officials say it's too soon to draw any concrete conclusions.

(voice-over): A key decision in California, a state with more than 30,000 nonviolent drug offenders every year. The latest "L.A. Times" poll shows the initiative ahead.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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