The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a bill to create a mandatory, two-county pilot drug court program. The bill pales in comparison to Gov. Chris Christie's proposal last month which requested of the NJ Legislature that it expand the mandatory treatment statewide within a year. Citing cost concerns about such an aggressive expansion, the Senate panel approved two new programs. The panel also noted a concern that mandatory participation might cause unwilling participants to disrupt recovery efforts by more willing and cooperative defendants with addictions in the program.
The bill expands eligibility criteria for NJ's drug court substance abuse treatment program and also creates a pilot program in two counties. One program will be centered in North Jersey and the other in the South. In these pilot programs, anyone who meets the eligibility criteria is automatically enrolled in the program. The drug treatment program was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
Senator Ray Lezniak issued the following testimony at the Committee meeting:
"S-881 will expand the number of criminal offenders eligible for treatment for their drug or alcohol addiction under supervision of our counties' drug courts by removing some of the disqualifications in current law and by creating a two-county pilot program wherein all eligible offenders would be required to participate in the recovery program.