Drug courts exist to help those accused of drug crimes get the treatment they need and want. But they are voluntary, and not everyone opts to have their cases heard in a drug court. If Governor Christie has his way, however, every qualifying drug offender would be required to participate in drug court programming, a suggestion that has some people worried.
Drug courts are far different from criminal courts. They take someone who is accused of a drug offense and put them under the strict supervision of the courts. Offenders are able to avoid jail time by participating in treatment programming, mental health services, and by maintaining employment or education, and staying crime free.
Drug courts are not easy and many people who would qualify for their services choose not to, whether because they would rather serve the jail time and put the incident behind them or because they simply aren’t ready to get help for an addiction.
Governor Christie sees drug treatment in lieu of punishment, a crucial key to fighting drug use and drug-related crimes in the state. By making drug courts mandatory, he hopes he can stretch their successes to those people who wouldn’t voluntarily participate.
Christie has asked for an additional $2.5 million from lawmakers this year in his budget proposal, strictly for expanding the drug courts. This price tag is just one reason that some are questioning the move. They suggest that $2.5 million isn’t enough for the kind of reach Christie wants and that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
An alternate program, offered by Democratic Senator Ray Lesniak, would expand the drug courts, but not to the extent that Christie wants. It would limit the mandatory drug court idea to only two counties and “expand the eligibility requirements to participate,” according to the Stateline.
Chairman of the state Senate budget and appropriations committee Senator Paul Sarlo estimates Lesniak’s pilot program would cost about $2.6 million per year and serve 131 people. Christie’s plan, on the other hand, is estimated to cost about $9.1 per year and serve 482 annually.
Another issue with the suggested mandatory courts is whether they would work for the people being forced into them. Treatment experts say that an addict or user has to want help before they are able to put down the drugs, a mandatory treatment program might be a waste of resources for those who simply aren’t ready.
Currently, drug courts exist throughout the state and are available for a wide number of drug offenders. The program isn’t easy but is shown to be very successful.
If you are facing drug charges and are curious about the drug courts and whether or not you would be a potential participant, contact us today to discuss your options.