Despite the heroin epidemic gripping the Garden State, juveniles are not currently eligible for New Jersey's drug court program, which offers supervised rehabilitation instead of jail time.

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Non-violent adult drug offenders in New Jersey can be admitted into the state's drug court program if they're found guilty and subject to prison time or a minimum term of parole ineligibility. As of now, however, the program is only available to adults.

"A bill I just introduced would give judges the ability for juvenile offenses to place adolescents in the drug court program," said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph). "Currently the drug court program in New Jersey is only available to adults so this would make it an option for adolescents."

Drug court programs are not a walk in the park, but most offenders probably prefer them to time behind bars. The programs require random drug tests and frequent court appearances. Those who don't comply with the program can be sent to prison under their original sentencing guidelines.

"I think my bill could really help kids, because once admitted they would receive the benefits of the drug court team: supervision, counseling, treatment," Bucco said. "Not only would this save the state the money that's spent on incarceration, but it also gives each one of these individuals that successfully completes the program a second chance at life."

In the assemblyman's opinion, his legislation provides an effective tool to battle the state's growing heroin abuse crisis. Bucco said he wants to get the bill through the legislative process and onto Gov. Chris Christie's desk as quickly as possible.

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