While it is very true that many people are behind bars because of drug charges, the state of California has been trying to focus more on treatment over the last two decades. The drug court program that is in use now -- officially called the Los Angeles County Drug Court Program -- started back in 1994.
The goal of this program is to get people out of prison and out of local jails, moving them to institutions where they can get treatment for drug problems and addictions. It recognizes that many criminal charges can actually spring from the fact that someone is addicted to a substance, and what they truly need is assistance with this addiction -- not incarceration.
It is important to note that this program focuses on non-violent crimes. For violent crimes that are related to drugs, incarceration may be preferred as a means of keeping the public safe. Non-violent offenders, though, are often not seen as a threat to anyone else, so removing them from the crowded prison system makes sense.
The program is larger than one may think, with 12 different drug courts set up along traditional lines, a number of specialized programs that the Public Defender runs and even two drug courts that are targeted specifically at juvenile offenders.
If you are facing drug charges, one option to look into may be your ability to be placed into a rehab program like those described above, rather than directly into prison. Make sure that you know about this and all of your other options, along with the legal steps needed to utilize them.
Source: Los Angeles County Public Defender, "Restorative Justice Drug Treatment Court" Jan. 06, 2015