Governor Christie recently signed into law a bill that dramatically changes the way New Jersey’s criminal justice system deals with drug users and drug-related crimes.
Under the new legislation, the focus will be more on prevention and rehabilitation than punishment.
The new law expands eligibility for New Jersey’s drug court program and requires non-violent, drug-dependent offenders to get help instead of a prison sentence.
The Governor, a former federal prosecutor, explained that the war on drugs was well-intentioned, but treatment has proven to be more effective than incarceration.
He revealed that long prison sentences for drug-abuse offenders often fail when it comes to ending addiction. Moreover, once a person finishes his sentence, he is released back into the community only to commit more crimes.
According to Christie, “This will ensure that people have an opportunity to break the cycle.”
Statistics show that New Jersey’s drug court program has served over 12,000 people in the last 10 years. Currently, there are more than 4,500 participants are in the program.
Additionally, the rate of re-arrest for drug court graduates within three years of graduation is merely 16% and only 8% are convicted again for new crimes.
Those rates skyrocket to 54% and 43% for offenders who do not participate.
As of now, it is unclear how many more offenders the program will serve or how much it will cost after becoming fully implemented.
This year’s budget allocated $2.5 million for the program.
The Governor emphasized that “every life is precious” and saving even one would be an accomplishment to him.
Christie noted that he saw the success of the drug program first-hand while serving as a board member at Daytop, a drug treatment center for adolescents.
Republicans and Democrats alike are hailing the law as a positive step in the right direction. Legislators have agreed for some time now that too many people who belong in rehab have been thrown into prison and neglected upon their release.
This bill is expected to assist those who are found guilty of drug-related crimes in getting the genuine help that they need.