New Jersey’s New Drug Courts

Governor Christie recently signed a bill expanding New Jersey’s drug courts. Before the new legislation, admittance into the drug court program, which was created in 1996, was limited to first-time drug or alcohol offenders. The new law eliminates the requirement that only first-time offenders are eligible for admittance into the program and, at the same time, expands the program to include nearly all crimes, so long as they are non-violent crimes. The program will begin with a one-year pilot in three vicinages. Every year, the State’s plan is to expand the program by an additional three vicinages.

New Jersey’s drug court program aims to break the vicious cycle of crime and addition. By providing individuals with treatment – rather than incarcerating them – the program attempts to address the underlying causes of criminality. Additionally, it is thought that mandating treatment rather than prison saves money in the long run. It is estimated that it costs approximately $40,000 a year to incarcerate an individual while treatment costs only $11,300 a year.

Entry into drug court is often the last resort for an individual. The program will require a long-term commitment to recovery and agreement on the part of the defendant to accept probationary supervision and intensive drug treatment and counseling. Participants will also be expected to complete in-patient treatment and, if recommended, go to Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, get a sponsor, obtain employment, attend outpatient treatment and refrain from associating with those that use drugs and alcohol.

The recent expansion of the drug court program to individuals that are not first-time offenders will help those individuals that need the program the most – those individuals that are truly caught in a cycle of crime and addition. Randolph H. Wolf has represented many clients in navigate New Jersey’s drug court program. For persons addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, drug courts may be that individual’s the best option.