Science + Technology

Proposition 36 Saves Taxpayers’ Money: UCLA Study Finds Nearly $2.50 in Savings for Each $1 Spent on Drug Offenders Eligible for Treatment


(Note to Editors: The full report isavailable online at


A newly released UCLA study reports that California taxpayers savenearly $2.50 for every dollar invested in nonviolent drug offenders eligiblefor substance abuse treatment under the state's Substance Abuse and CrimePrevention Act of 2000 (SACPA), or Proposition 36. Over a 30-month follow-upperiod, this represented a savings to state and local government of $173.3million for offenders entering SACPA during its first year. For offenders whocompleted their required drug treatment, nearly $4 was saved for each dollarexpended.

Conducted by Integrated Substance Abuse Programs researchers at theSemel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen Schoolof Medicine at UCLA, the study compared the cost differences between allSACPA-eligible offenders during the program's first year with those for abefore-SACPA group of similar drug offenders. Both groups were assessed over a30-month follow-up period.

Savings related toSACPA were largely due to reductions in jail and prison time, while costincreases were due to drug abuse treatment and to subsequent arrests andconvictions primarily related to later drug offenses. Probation and parole costchanges were modest as were increases in health care costs and taxableearnings.

"The cost savingsare dramatic, but with increased system accountability measures and improvedoffender management, as well as incentives to community programs for bettertreatment entry, retention, and completion rates, they could rise even higher,"said study co‑author M. Douglas Anglin, UCLA professor-in-residence ofpsychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. "Our suggestions for boosting thosesavings include further improvements in the coordination of services andcontinuity of care within counties, better participant screening, improvedmatching of services to needs, and attention to special populations of drugoffenders, including minorities and offenders with psychiatric problems."


Among specificfindings outlined in the report:

             Over a30-month follow-up period, taxpayers saved nearly $2.50 for every dollar spentduring SACPA's first year, compared with a before-SACPA group of similaroffenders. This represented a total saving of $173.3 million to taxpayers.

             Over a12-month follow-up period, taxpayers saved $2.20 and $2.30 per dollar spentduring 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 drugoffenders who completed treatment after entering the SACPA program during itsfirst year, over the 30-month follow-up period taxpayers saved nearly $4 forevery dollar spent.

             Adisproportionately large share of criminal justice costs were observed for the1.6 percent of SACPA eligible offenders who had five or more priorconvictions in the 30 months before their SACPA-eligible offense. Costs for thissubgroup were 10 times higher ($21,175) than those of the typical offender($2,254).

The study examinedcosts in eight areas. Five involved the criminal justice system: jail, prison,probation, parole, and arrests and convictions. Two involved social serviceareas: drug treatment and health care. The final area allowed accrued costs tobe reduced by taxes paid by offenders on earnings and purchases.

All analyses usedthe "taxpayer perspective," focusing on costs to state and local governments. Costswere adjusted to 2004 dollars using the consumer price index or, asappropriate, the medical price index.


Proposition 36 was approved by Californiavoters in 2000. Adults convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses and otherwiseeligible for SACPA could be sentenced to probation with drug treatment insteadof either probation without treatment or incarceration. Offenders on probationor parole who commit nonviolent, drug-related offenses or who violatedrug-related conditions of their release could also receive treatment. Underthe law, SACPA funding was scheduled to expire June 30, 2006. The governor'sbudget proposes to maintain the General Fund transfer to the Substance AbuseTreatment Fund at $120 million on a one-time basis for 2006–07 conditioned uponthe Legislature passing reforms to the program.


The CaliforniaDepartment of Alcohol and Drug Programs, in a competitive bid process, choseUCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs to conduct the evaluation of SACPAover five and one-half years, starting in January 2001 and ending June 30,2006.

The late DouglasLongshore led the evaluation over its first five years, creating an environmentof scientific rigor, agency collaboration and public trust that allowed theevaluation's success. In addition to Longshore and Anglin, study co-authorsinclude Angela Hawken and Darren Urada, all of the Semel Institute's IntegratedSubstance Abuse Programs at UCLA.

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience andHuman Behavior at UCLA is an interdisciplinary research and education institutedevoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic,biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, andthe causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. For more information,see




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