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New Jersey Measure Would Expand Access to Court-Supervised Drug Treatment

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A measure advancing in the New Jersey legislature would expand the number of criminal offenders who are eligible for court-supervised drug and alcohol treatment.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who was robbed at home by two men on drugs, has become the leading advocate for the legislation. The bill also would launch a pilot program in several counties that would automatically enroll low-level drug offenders in a recovery program, the Associated Press reports.

The measure was approved by the state Senate Budget Committee, and now heads to the full Senate. A similar bill is under consideration in the Assembly.

Governor Chris Christie has proposed mandatory drug treatment for all nonviolent drug offenders in New Jersey. He said his plan frees up prison space for more serious criminals, while saving the state money, by stopping the warehousing of people with drug problems.

The bill under consideration in the legislature is not as large in scope as the governor’s proposal, the AP notes. Lesniak’s bill would start with a pilot program in two counties, along with expanded statewide eligibility for offenders who volunteer for treatment.

“We don’t know that mandatory treatment is effective,” Lesniak said. He noted there are not enough treatment beds and professionals to handle a large number of new clients. “We don’t want to deny someone who volunteers for treatment because someone else was forced into treatment,” he added.

3 Responses to this article

  1. katie / April 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Only if from new funding and not from any existing alcohol/drug or Municipal Alliance money.

  2. Jeff / April 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I think this is a great idea. Treatment options should be greatly expanded for those who require it. Personally, I believe drug treatment should be required for anyone with a drug or alcohol issue (where that issue causes impairment, such as criminal justice involvement).

    I do find Senator Lesniak’s comment a bit troubling where he states, “We don’t know that mandatory treatment is effective,”. If that’s so than why are so many criminal justice clients mandated to any type of treatment? New Jersey mandates thousands upon thousands of people to substance abuse, mental health, sex offender, etc., programs (and has been for years and years) and we don’t even know if it’s effective?? Many times criminal justice clients are indigent and so the program costs are born by the state and we have no idea if what we’re paying for is effective??

  3. Jeff / April 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Katie. I agree. I would hope that the criminal justice confinement savings would go a long way toward funding such a change.

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