NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Probation For Drug Offenders Saves Arizona Money

April 21, 1999

A report from the Arizona Supreme Court claims that treatment for nonviolent drug offenders -- as an alternative to locking them up -- has saved the state's taxpayers more than $2.5 million during the first year. Arizona is the first state to institute such a policy and experts believe even greater savings can be achieved in the future.

  • Of 2,622 people on probation diverted to treatment in Arizona, 77.5 percent subsequently tested free of drugs -- a rate that is significantly higher than for offenders on probation in most other states.
  • Some 77.1 percent of Arizona drug users on probation -- who are expected to help pay for their treatment -- made at least one payment.
  • The report said it costs $16.06 a day to subject someone on probation to intensive supervision, including drug treatment and counseling -- versus $50 a day to keep an inmate in prison.
  • The new program is the result of a ballot proposition which Arizonans had to pass twice -- by 65 to 35 percent, then 57 to 43 percent -- before the legislature finally acted.

Political observers were impressed that citizens in a state as conservative as Arizona would reject incarceration in favor of treatment. But voters seem to have taken a long look at the costs involved in jailing and decided they weren't justified.

Source: Christopher S. Wren, "Arizona Finds Cost Savings in Treating Drug Offenders," New York Times, April 21, 1999.


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