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New Jersey Expands Drug Court for Those Convicted of Drug Charges

New Jersey recently expanded its drug court program by widening the types of crimes that can be considered for drug court, and it also strengthened the requirements of the program by making participation mandatory instead of voluntary. In drug court, individuals convicted of eligible drug charges participate in drug treatment instead of serving jail time.

Over the next five years the changes to New Jersey’s drug court will be implemented. Under its current form, around 1,400 people participate in the drug court each year. In one year, the state will require every individual charged with a low-level drug crime to participate in the program. In the first year of expansion the number of participants is expected to more than double. When signing the bill that expanded the program into law, Gov. Chris Christie said the drug court deals with people who have an addiction and the problem needs to be treated as an illness not through prison sentences.

Drug court is a program that lasts five years. Individuals charged with low-level drug crimes and who are not considered a threat to society will be required to participate under the new program. Under the voluntary program, individuals must have a drug addiction, be open to treatment and be found that treatment will help. Participating individuals undergo intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment, and they regularly appear before judges who determine whether they meet the requirements of the program. The new program will begin in three counties in New Jersey that are yet to be determined.

The costs of the program are less than one-third of the costs to jail someone for the applicable drug offenses. It costs the state $42,000 to house one individual whereas it costs $11,300 for one person to participate in the program.

Source: The Star-Ledger, “Gov. Christie Signs Bill that Gives Non-Violent Drug Offenders Rehab Instead of Jail,” MaryAnn Spoto, July 19, 2012

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