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Click here for more about Ballot Measures.

NORA Would Let Californians Put Resources Into Habilitating Offenders

The Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA) is Proposition 5 on the 2008 California state ballot.

As the Sacramento Bee reported on Sept. 2, 2008 ("Props 5 and 8 will make waves nationally"), "Given the prison mess we've locked ourselves into, (George) Soros' [sic] proposal may be the brightest light on a bleak horizon. This one, Proposition 5, called NORA, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, is a monster plan designed to direct many more drugusing lawbreakers to treatment and keep them out of the slammer. It puts more money into diversion and rehabilitation for both adults and youthful offenders, for whom there is now no drug treatment program at all. It's a complicated and costly plan, running to an estimated $1 billion a year. It would allocate more resources to treatment, probation and parole. But the Legislative Analyst's Office believes it could save the state as much money, especially in prison construction, as it will cost, and maybe more. The numbers are a little iffy. Nonetheless, the LAO says the program could reduce the state's adult inmate population, now roughly 171,000 prisoners, by 18,000 at $46,000 per year apiece, that's not peanuts and reduce the rolls of parolees by an additional 22,000."

According to the Bee, "Proposition 5 has strong opposition from the leaders of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, which, in the words of one of its California members, Jeffrey Thoma, the public defender of Solano County, is based "on misunderstanding and misinformation" and was adopted "using heavy-handed tactics." Conversely, Proposition 5 has the endorsement of a long list of California individuals and groups, from the League of Women Voters and organizations representing physicians and drug and alcohol abuse counselors to labor unions, the former warden of San Quentin Prison and former director of the state Department of Corrections to conservative libertarians like former Secretary of State George Shultz. If Proposition 5 passes, it could ring bells in the new Congress, elected on the same day, that Americans are ready for a new drug strategy. Congress, in its fear of being tarred as soft on drugs, has so far ignored all the other ballot measures. But given the general fatigue of right-wing ideology, the messages might be heard this time. A growing number of Americans are beginning to understand that the countless billions we're spending on tracking down and incarcerating users, the additional billions in overseas interdiction and eradication, and the human and property cost of the crimes addicts commit to sustain their habit may not be worth the price."

More information about Prop 5 is available at the campaign website.

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