Drug Treatment: New Jersey Drug Court Expansion Bill Passes, Awaits Governor's Signature

The New Jersey state Senate passed a bill that would expand the state's drug court program by a margin of 28-10 on March 3. The House version of the bill had already passed by a 58-18 margin in February. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

The bill, A1770, sponsored by John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) in the Senate and five primary sponsors led by Bonnie Watson Coleman in the House, amends the special probation statute that governs drug courts to expand eligibility for the program. It would also authorize out-of-state treatment under some circumstances and allow courts to reduce Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction (DEDR) fines imposed on drug offenders.

"Drug courts distinguish between people who need treatment and people who belong in jail," said Sen. Adler in remarks reported by PolitickerNJ. "We should make sure sick people get the help they need and save our prison space for real criminals. For many drug offenders, treatment is far more successful than incarceration in preventing repeat offenses. The drug courts are a valuable tool in New Jersey's crime prevention efforts. They allow us to focus on helping sick people get well and save our prison space for real criminals."

"The drug court's success lies in its ability to treat the disease that lies at the core of an individual's criminal behavior," explained Sen. Turner. "Addiction is at the root of so many crimes -- from drug possession and distribution to larceny and violent crimes. When we end the addiction, we end those crimes and make our communities safer."

"The proof is in the results," Adler added, noting that the drug court treatment program has been found to be four times more effective than imprisonment in reducing repeat offenses.

The bill will allow persons with two or more previous third degree felony convictions to be eligible for drug court, subject to a prosecutor's veto. It will also eliminate the requirement that people in drug court be sentenced to six months of inpatient treatment and leave that decision to the sentencing judge. It also allows for early release from five-year special probation if the subject stays trouble-free for at least two years.

Gov. Corzine is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Slowly backtreading

Prisons too full? Courts too backlogged? Run out of revenue? Better provide a relief valve. The pendullum has swung too far in the wrong direction. Now it swings, ever so slowly, back. By the way, the relief valve will only work for so long, then it too will go. Sen.Turner should try to see that, PROHIBITION "is at the root of so many crimes".

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