My service on the Drug Policy Task Force of the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice showed me a wealth of research into the smartest ways to deal with drug offenders. Prison is generally not cost effective for this population. Recidivism rates for drug offenders are not good -- because we shouldn't be sending them to prison in the first place. Prison sentences for a drug offender makes it more likely that he or she will return to prison after their first stay. Community-based treatment programs have been proven to be effective at saving money in state budgets and saving lives. It costs less to treat an addiction and turn a life around than it does for society to keep paying the costs of drug abuse. Corrections budgets are the beginning, the middle and the end, as untreated drug addiction leads to more crime, but there are many other costs, such as lost productivity, health care and social services.
Reforming the Controlled Substances Act to use evidenced-based alternatives to our current criminal sentencing code is something we must take strides to achieve. The treatment infrastructure will keep pace with our changing priorities. The CCJJ has approved most of our recommendations from the Drug Policy Task Force and they next will be debated in the 2010 legislative session. I'm sponsoring the bill to carry forward the recommendations.