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Governor Pushes for Mandatory Drug Treatment

Presented with the choice between prison and treatment, it’s safe to say most (if not all) offenders would choose treatment. And Governor Christie intends to exploit this to save the state money while doing some good in the drug using community.

Christie is “pushing” for mandatory substance-abuse treatment for non-violent offenders according to reporting in the Trentonian. And the problem of drug abuse in our state is something that sorely needs addressing.

We have what is known as a “treatment gap.” It means we have far more of our citizens who need drug and alcohol treatment than is available. The difference is estimated to be between 30,000 and 50,000 cases. The gap exists because there isn’t enough capacity to take on the burden and part of Governor Christie’s plan.

With a four and a half million dollar increase in state budgeting for treatment, the gap won’t be closed, but it will get smaller. And the money isn’t a net loss for our state either. Every dollar spend on treatment is expected to return double that in making our citizens more productive and getting people off the welfare rolls and out of the criminal justice system.

The challenge now will be for the substance abuse treatment community to step up and produce clean and sober graduates. Shifting the costs from enforcement to treatment only pays off when treatment works. But even for the loosest definition of “works” – partial abstinence or reduced consumption of illegal drugs – there are still huge benefits. A person in prison has no chance to positively influence the financial and emotional stability of the family they leave behind. They have no chance to contribute by working or helping raise the kids. Under treatment, these things become possible again.

Those concerned more with punishment may see this as being soft on crime, but the pool of candidates is selected as the most likely to succeed. Violent offenders will be excluded.

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