While there is an unfortunate tendency to identify anyone involved in the criminal justice system as a hardened criminal, this is far from the reality. On the contrary, many of the people taken into custody by law enforcement officials are actively struggling with substance abuse issues.
In the not-so-distant past, the primary method of handling these types of drug offenders was to simply keep them incarcerated. However, it became increasingly clear that this approach was woefully ineffective, filling jails and prisons, costing millions, and failing to reduce either drug use or recidivism.
The good news is that New Jersey created a statewide Drug Court program designed to help offenders addicted to drug and/or alcohol address their underlying addiction issues. The Drug Court statute was also amended in 2012 to allow offenders charged with second-degree robbery and burglary into Drug Court. Importantly, Drug Court not only addresses a defendant's underlying addiction in order for them to become law abiding citizens, but actually saves taxpayer's money and reduces the prison population.
Indeed, statistics show that the Garden State's drug courts have reached the following milestones since April 2002:
- Over 3,600 people have graduated, with roughly 84 percent having already secured employment at the time of this achievement
- $8.4 million in fines have been recovered
As to who is eligible for these drug courts, the ideal candidates are substance abusing offenders who are facing the very real threat of incarceration. In fact, it's worth noting that a 2012 law signed by Governor Christie made Drug Court mandatory for otherwise eligible drug offenders, regardless of whether they actually apply voluntarily.
While a complete discussion of the advantages of drug court is perhaps beyond the scope of a single blog post, it's perhaps sufficient to say that graduates are provided with the opportunity for a new beginning. For example, a major benefit upon successful completion of the Drug Court program is an expungement for all prior offenses and convictions.
In light of this reality, if you have been arrested, it's important to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can help you explore all of your options and, if necessary, help you gain admission to Drug Court.