FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --The number of drug offenders in California jails and prisons has dropped dramatically since voters approved prop 47, which reduced many felony drug crimes to misdemeanors.
Assistant Fresno County District Attorney Steven Wright told the Fresno County Supervisors the result has been more crime and less drug treatment. "After all, those offenses were reduced to misdemeanors and everything started to get out of control."
The Supervisors were told many offenders charged with misdemeanors had little motivation to show up in court, let alone go into drug treatment.
Late last year Superior court Judge Hillary Chittick set up a Prop 47 drug court, where substance abuse counselors and prosecutors and defense attorneys worked together in the courtroom to direct users into drug treatment programs. Public Defender Liz Diaz said it's working. "The majority of people who do show up, 80-percent of them are going for treatment which is a good sign."
But the program is understaffed, so Diaz joined District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp in asking the board of Supervisors to fund four more drug court positions. "It really is a community wide effort to get people who are addicted to drugs into treatment programs so they can get on with their lives and be productive citizens."
Supervisor Brian Pacheco summed up the boards feelings. "I believe this is a good idea and especially at this time."
On a motion from Supervisor Henry Perea, the board unanimously approved spending an additional $400,000 for the positions. They hope with continued success the state will pick up more of the drug court costs.