N.J. considers pilot expansion of ‘drug court’ for nonviolent offenders

The Senate budget committee has advanced legislation that would allow more nonviolent offenders with drug addictions to get into treatment programs in New Jersey instead of going to prison.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, would expand eligibility for participation in what’s known as drug court and set up a pilot program to make it mandatory in two counties yet to be determined.

Lesniak questions whether there are enough resources for the mandatory statewide program that Christie has proposed.

“It would cost an additional $25 million in the budget that the governor did not appropriate, but equally important is we do not have the professionals or the facilities available,” Lesniak said. “We don’t want to close the door on people who choose recovery to make room for people who are forced into it.”

Lesniak said the pilot program would help determine the effectiveness of mandatory participation. He says there are concerns that those forced into it would negatively affect the group dynamic of voluntary participants who want to recover from their addiction.

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