Special Reports

Program offers path to sobriety

Proposition 36 lets nonviolent drug offenders receive substance abuse treatment instead of going to jail. Approved by California voters, it took effect July 1, 2001.

Offenders get two chances to participate and up to three probation violations per chance. Here is the process:

* Conviction--A person is convicted in Superior Court of a misdemeanor or felony drug offense, or a parolee is referred. Offenses can't include alcohol-related or drug dealing charges or violent crimes.

*Assessment--A substance-abuse history is taken and a drug test submitted. A counselor determines where to place participants --outpatient treatment, sober living facility or detoxification facility.

* Treatment program-- Basic treatment generally lasts 12 to 18 months and involves outpatient services three to five times a week, education and meeting with a community-based group three times a week. Six to 12 months after the initial treatment program, participants move to after-care treatment, taking part one to three times a week.

* Progress report in court --Participants return to court after 30 days for a judge to assess progress. Court overview lasts throughout the program, though appearances may be reduced to every 60 or 90 days. Participants can be removed from the program if they continue to test positive for drugs, aren't participating, or don't show up to treatment or court.

* Counseling sessions and drug testing-- Participants receive ongoing counseling, drug testing and assessment.

* Pay fees and graduate--Participants are eligible to graduate after 12 to 18 months and when they have paid all fees for treatment and probation. Treatment fees are based on a sliding scale, with many clients paying $2 for a counseling session.

* Charges dismissed, probation terminated-- If fees and fines are paid, participants can have charges dismissed and probation terminated.