Call for More Treatment Drug Courts
A New Jersey state commission charged with reviewing sentencing laws has recommended that drug treatment and drug courts be expanded to provide more offenders with alternatives to incarceration, the Associated Press reported May 5.
"Unfortunately, there is a paucity of drug-treatment programs in the country and in New Jersey," said retired Judge Barnett E. Hoffman, the chair of the Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing. "This problem is especially acute for the impoverished who lack the financial wherewithal to afford effective treatment."
The panel said that expanding treatment would reduce recidivism and save the state money. A decade-old diversion program in the state has enrolled 4,390 people since 2002, but is only open to first-time offenders. The commission recommended expanding eligibility to include those with two or more convictions, and to allow treatment clients to get early probation discharge after two years of progress.
"Many additional nonviolent individuals, whose substance abuse is the primary contributing factor in the offense, are caught in the net of mandatory sentencing laws but could be held accountable for their actions through cost-effective and rigorous treatment and rehabilitation programs offered by drug courts," said Joseph Greer, director of the New Jersey chapter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
The commission also recommended reducing the size of "Drug-Free School Zones" in the state, saying the law often results in harsh sentences being imposed on individuals who are not involved in selling drugs to students or at schools.