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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Bill Expanding Access to New Jersey Drug Courts Approved by State Senate

June 01, 2012
A measure that would expand substance abuse eligibility for certain offenders, and create a pilot program for mandatory enrollment in two New Jersey counties was approved by the Senate Thursday by a vote of 33-2. "Giving criminal offenders an opportunity at a second chance at a crime-free life is a moral and responsible thing to do," said Senator Ray Lesniak, D-Union, one of the bill's sponsors. "We need to understand that the current practice of incarcerating drug addicts does little to rehabilitate the individual, and may in fact only lead to a nonviolent offender becoming a violent offender later in life. This bill is about spending our corrections budget smarter, and putting the focus on addiction recovery, rather than blind incarceration, for offenders who are motivated by substance abuse." "Our current criminal justice system fails individuals who are addicted to drugs," said Senator Nick Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset, and the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "One of the popular definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. In the case of drug-addicted criminal offenders, if we think for a minute that the current vicious cycle of incarceration, release, criminal offense and incarceration will eventually yield rehabilitated individuals, then we're certainly inviting questions about the efficacy of the State's criminal justice system, let alone our own mental health and well-being." The bill would expand the number of criminal offenders eligible for treatment for drug or alcohol addiction under supervision of the State's drug court programs by removing some of the disqualifications currently in place for eligibility into those programs.