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NJ Governor Signs Measure Requiring Treatment for Low-Level Drug Offenders

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Thursday signed a measure that requires treatment for low-level drug offenders who otherwise would go to prison, according to The Star-Ledger.

The law establishes a $2.5 million pilot program that will expand drug courts in three New Jersey counties. It also expands the types of crimes that make inmates eligible for drug court, which will now be mandatory for those inmates. The article notes drug court programs require inmates to undergo intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment. In order to qualify, inmates must have a drug addiction, be receptive to treatment and be deemed able to be helped by treatment. The inmates appear regularly before judges, who determine whether they are meeting the terms of the five-year program.

“When I outlined this proposal six months ago, I made it clear that our commitment to our most vulnerable was not just a matter of dollars and cents, it was about reclaiming lives. No life is disposable and every life can be redeemed, but not if we ignore them,” Governor Christie said in a news release. “Once again by putting people before partisanship, we are providing optimism and hope to individuals and families torn apart by addiction. Once fully phased in over five years, this program will provide mandatory drug treatment to appropriate offenders who are not a threat to society and who suffer from the disease of addiction—redeeming lives and healing families.”

New Jersey spends $42,000 to house an inmate for one year, compared with $11,300 for drug courts, according to the newspaper. Governor Christie wanted inmates in every county to qualify for mandatory drug treatment, but Democratic legislators objected to the cost. The governor agreed to their suggestion of a five-year period to phase in the program to all counties, to allow the state time to fully fund the program, while giving private treatment facilities time to expand.

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