California taxpayers saved nearly $2.50 for every dollar spent sending nonviolent drug offenders to treatment centers rather than jail under the state’s Proposition 36, a UCLA study released Tuesday says. The study is the most comprehensive to date and the first cost-benefit analysis of the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000. “The best we can project, based on the UCLA numbers, the state has saved $1.5 billion in five years,” said study co-author M. Douglas Anglin, UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. “That includes $1 billion in annual expenses and $500 million for not having to build a prison that would have been necessary had we been incarcerating drug users.” Since taking effect in 2001, Prop. 36 has diverted 140,000 people from incarceration into treatment. About 60,000 will graduate from treatment by the program’s full fifth year. During that time, California prisons saw a 32 percent drop in the number of people incarcerated for drug possession. Researchers at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the cost differences between all Prop. 36-eligible offenders during the program’s first year with those for a pre-Prop. 36 group of similar drug offenders. Both groups were monitored over a 30-month follow-up period. Researchers said program savings were largely due to reductions in jail and prison time. UCLA is conducting a series of studies on the proposition, which allows adults convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses to be sentenced to probation with drug treatment instead of either probation without treatment or incarceration. Darren Urada, program director at the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, said researchers are concerned that only about one-third of those who enter the program complete treatment. “There is where further improvements should be focused on,” Urada said. “This is a tough population. These are people with real drug problems. Some of them have long, nonviolent criminal histories. And we need to do everything we can to ensure any barriers are being addressed.” Anglin said the authors’ suggestions for boosting the savings include further improvements in the coordination of services and continuity of care within counties, better participant screening, improved matching of services to needs, and attention to special populations of drug offenders, including minorities and offenders with psychiatric problems. Under the law, funding for the program is expected to expire June 30. The governor’s budget proposes to maintain funding at $120 million on a one-time basis in 2006-07 conditioned on the Legislature passing program reforms. [email protected] (213) 974-8985 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!