Most people seem to agree that the “war on drugs” has not worked. Despite high rates of incarceration, drug-related crime in New Jersey continues to rise. The NJ Drug Court program, operating in every county in the state, offers a practical solution to what remains a major problem.
Outspoken New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in signing into law a bill that expanded the state’s Drug Court program, said, “We will no longer simply warehouse individuals in prison who are not a threat to society while the underlying cause of their criminality goes unaddressed.”
Nowhere is the disparity between the cause and effect of drug crime more noticeable than Monmouth County, NJ, in towns like Freehold, for example. According to Acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, there have been 37 heroin overdose deaths in the county so far this year. Last year, more than 50 people were arrested in a major crackdown on a heroin-trafficking ring that operated in Monmouth County. Not surprisingly, authorities have gravely referred to widespread heroin use in the county as an “epidemic.” However, the solution to the drug problem is not more incarceration. As Gramiccioni succinctly puts it, “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this.”
What Is Drug Court in New Jersey?
Drug Court may be an option for offenders who face felony drug charges in superior court in Monmouth and Ocean counties and throughout New Jersey. It is a highly specialized program that places an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of incarceration. The program helps offenders learn to cope with their addictions so that they can stay clean later on.
The Drug Court program has four phases:
- Stabilization: Participants must complete an inpatient drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. Afterward, they undergo intensive outpatient aftercare treatment, including counseling sessions, drug treatment programs, frequent and random urine tests, weekly court appearances, and weekly contacts with probation.
- Positive Change: Participants must attend treatment, appear weekly in court, make regular contacts with their probation officer, take a weekly urine test, and provide proof of employment.
- Release Prevention: During this phase, the offender seeks to resolve personal and family issues so as to help prevent a relapse.
- Commencement. Graduation can occur as soon as 18 months after sentencing. According to Carol Venditto, the state’s Drug Court manager, an offender typically spends three years in the program, although the sentence can last as long as five years. Successful completion of Drug Court is followed by standard probationary supervision.
Drug Court Lowers Recidivism Rates and Helps Users Escape the Cycle of Addiction
The Law Firm of Shebell & Shebell in Monmouth County recommends Drug Court because it may help offenders to stay clean by providing a support system, including access to drug rehabilitation services. As a result, participants in the program are more likely to avoid returning to prison. The NJ Department of Corrections tracked drug offenders for three years after their release from prison.
The department found that 54 percent of drug offenders were arrested for an indictable offense, while just 16 percent of drug offenders who graduated from a Drug Court program were arrested. Additionally, the department found that 43 percent of drug offenders were convicted again after release, compared to just 8 percent of Drug Court program graduates.
If you are facing drug charges in Monmouth County or elsewhere in New Jersey, call us at 732-663-1122 for a free consultation.