The Addiction that Costs California $150,000

Sep 30, 2013
ACLU of Northern California

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

Comedian and actor David Moss fell into hard times with a drug addiction that immediately became a struggle he couldn’t overcome. Addiction had landed him in a cycle of arrests – not just one or two times, but a whopping 14 times for the same charge: being under the influence of a narcotic.

One guy. 14 arrests. No help.

Throughout David’s journey in and out of the California criminal justice system, there was never an attempt to get him the real help that he needed – Treatment for his addiction and the childhood trauma that was fueling it. 

Most people released from a California jail will return there within three years. This revolving door comes at the expense of millions of dollars, and a real opportunity to provide rehabilitation and improve public safety. In David’s case, his 14 arrests cost the state of California almost $150,000.

The amount of money spent on jailing people like David could be reallocated to funding things like education, treatment, and job training programs.  

After David realized he was losing it all, he sought out professional help on his own, and was able to overcome his own demons and become a productive member of society. How much money did it take to treat David? Only $7,000.

California has chosen to prioritize incarceration over the kinds of programs that can help people like David. It’s time to think outside the box. 

SB 649 is the most significant sentencing reform ever to pass out of the state legislature. The bill would allow possession of a small amount of drugs to be charged as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The Governor will sign or veto it any day now.

It’s not an easy task. But together, we can address issues of addiction, keep people safer, and put California’s dollars toward solutions that work.