Treatment to be Given to Drug Offenders in NJ

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:52:08 PM

NJ Gov. Chris Christie signs bill into law so more non-violent offenders are eligible for treatment in the state’s criminal justice system.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has put his signature on a bill making it a law that the criminal justice system in the state provide treatment for addicted criminal rather than only focus on time served.

The program will be phased in over a five year period, and will make it possible for more non-violent, drug addicted convicts to qualify for the state’s drug court program and get treatment for their substance abuse issues.

According to a statement made by Christie to the media, although the ideology of “The War on Drugs” may have seemed like a viable option in the struggle for sobriety, treatment works better.  He further noted to the media at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, a substance abuse treatment facility in NJ, that locking up drug-abuse convicts will not end the addiction because the underlying issues will not have been addressed.  The offender will most likely partictipate in substance abuse behaviour upon release from prison and engage in other criminal activities, and the offender will simply return to jail again, repeating the cycle.

“This will ensure that people have an opportunity to break the cycle”, said Christie.

The program is currently treating over 4,500 non-violent drug abuse offenders, and over 12,000 have gone through the “drug court” program in the past 10 years.  The numbers are encouraging; only 16 percent of those who graduate from the drug court system get re-arrested within the following three years, and only 8% get convicted of new crimes.  Those who do not participate in the drug court system have a re-arrest rate of 54% and 43% of those arrested get convicted of crimes committed after release.

Christie himself and the NJ Legislature will receive a report once a year on the program to ensure that it is effectively run, as an added layer of supervision.  Included in the report will be information on the costs and revocation, completion, and recidivism rates.

The NJ governor is very confident about the program being a statistical success, but also stated that “every life is precious” and the effort will be worth it if it saves one life.  He further stated that because of his time spent on the board of directors at another treatment facility: “I’m a believer in this because I have seen it myself”.

Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Assemblywoman for Trenton, said the entire public will be better off because of the program.  She also spoke to the media at the Rescue Mission.

“We have too many inappropriate people in prison, and people go in and come out unprepared to back into society because those issues aren’t addressed.”

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