Non-violent drug offenders will get mandatory treatment instead of jail time under a bill signed into law this afternoon by Governor Chris Christie. The new law acts on the principles laid out by Governor Christie in his January State of the State Address – that no life is disposable and that it is a commonsense, fiscal, and moral imperative to help individuals dealing with drug addiction reclaim their lives with treatment, rather than warehousing them in prison.

“We will no longer simply warehouse individuals in prison who are not a threat to society while the underlying cause of their criminality goes unaddressed,” says Christie. “And we won’t wait for them to come to the conclusion that they need treatment on their own. With this legislation we are building on our record of reducing recidivism, reclaiming lives by breaking the vicious cycle of crime and addiction, and doing so in a way that is less costly and more effective in getting results.”

The new law will phase in mandatory drug court for nonviolent offenders over a 5-year period. Currently, participation in the drug court program is voluntary. The program will be phased in, in at least three vicinages to be determined by the Administrative Office of the Courts in the first year.

“Drug Court saved the life of one of the intruders who broke into my home and robbed me in the middle of the night three years ago, and the program made our community safer by giving him an opportunity to kick his drug habit and lead a productive, crime free life,” says State Senator Ray Lesniak, one of the prime sponsors of the bill. “Unfortunately, his partner in crime was not eligible to receive the intensive treatment for his drug addiction provided by our drug courts because of prior offenses. The time that he served in jail was more costly and less likely to aid his recovery or lessen his likelihood of committing another crime. This law expands access to the life-saving, cost-saving and crime-preventing opportunities provided by our drug courts to thousands of criminal offenders struggling with drug addiction.  Our communities will be safer and taxpayer costs will be saved as our prison population is reduced as a result.”

The law phases in the implementation of a program that will mandate access to special probation under drug court for any offender with a drug problem who is not disqualified from the drug court program under the revised criteria in the bill.  The Administrative Director of the Courts will oversee the phase-in and will submit reports to the Governor and the Legislature, beginning the year after the effective date of the bill, tracking the completion and revocation rates for people admitted to drug court, as well as the recidivism rates of graduates, the costs associated with implementing mandatory drug court, and any other information that may indicate the efficacy of the program.

Governor's Office