New Jersey's drug court system recognizes the fact that people who struggle with drug abuse should not be imprisoned but should be treated like folks with any other disease. Fortunately, Gov. Chris Christie favors the drug court system in the state and plans to expand the number of participants by making participation in the program mandatory, not voluntary.
In New Jersey, the drug court is essentially a treatment program led by the drug court judge who coordinates the steps of the program with court staff, probation officers, attorneys, treatment counselors and substance abuse evaluators.
The mission of New Jersey’s drug courts is to help a defendant charged with a drug crime solve his or her history of problems with alcohol or drugs. To do so, the judge sentences a participant to a specific treatment program that is the equivalent of probation.
Participants in the drug court treatment program receive assistance through detoxification, regular court appearances, frequent and random drug testing, residential programs, individual and group counseling, relapse prevention, outpatient services, literacy assistance, community service requirements, incentives and sanctions. All components of drug court help participants with personal accountability. Participants regularly attend treatment sessions, meet regularly with probation officers and make frequent appearances before the judge who oversees treatment.
There are eligibility requirements for New Jersey's Drug Courts. Adult individuals charged with non-violent drug offenses are generally eligible for the program. Adults charged with or convicted of violent crimes are not eligible to participate. Those who are eligible are recommended for the program soon after arrest. Since treatment is based on each individual’s case, each individual’s participation in the program lasts between three to five years. While participation in drug court may sound soft to outsiders that are not familiar with the process, many participants have stated that treatment through drug court is much more demanding than imprisonment.
The drug court system in New Jersey was created in reaction to the failure of the incarceration system. Unlike incarceration, drug courts address the problem of addiction, and the program creates benefits for participants and the state of New Jersey. The program fosters employment among participants. Generally only one-third of participants have jobs before entry into the program; however, after completion of the program 87 percent of participants are employed. The program also improves the rate of recidivism. The re-arrest rate for those who serve prison sentences for drug crimes is more than 50 percent, whereas the rate for participants is only 16 percent.
If you have been charged with a drug crime in New Jersey, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore your legal options.