Two lawmakers propose plan to get more N.J. offenders into rehab

Two Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature are proposing some reforms to make the criminal justice system more efficient and cost effective.

Legislation introduced by Sens. Ray Lesniak and Sandra Cunningham would require the state parole board to release offenders at the time of parole eligibility unless they’ve refused to participate in rehab programs in prison.

Cunningham said the proposals would also give judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent offenders with a drug problem to get treatment instead of being put behind bars.

“In the state, we’re always talking about money and how there isn’t enough money for social services and other programs, we’re spending $40,000 to $45,000 per person per year to incarcerate people who could be helped without incarceration,” she said.

Lesniak said lawmakers want to make sure there’s enough money to provide substance-abuse treatment for offenders who want it, before they move ahead on Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to make that treatment mandatory.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.