A measure that would change how New Jersey's criminal justice system deals with nonviolent drug offenders is now headed to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

The Assembly approved the bill on a 79-0 vote Monday. The Senate had given its approval last month.

The measure mandates that nonviolent, drug-dependent offenders who would benefit from treatment be sentenced to the state's drug court program rather than prison. It also phases in the statewide program over a five-year period, beginning with at least three counties in the first year.

Participation in drug court is currently voluntary.

Christie has also proposed mandatory drug court statewide for people who qualify. The governor says it's time to empty prisons of inmates who are drug-dependent but not criminals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)