Calling addiction a treatable disease, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he would require treatment for nonviolent criminals with drug dependence, a program that would take at least a year to start, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the meantime, Christie would offer yearlong drug treatment to 1,000 to 1,500 low-level offenders now in prison. “I believe that this will be, if we do it the right way, one of the lasting legacies of this administration,” Christie said at the Rescue Mission of Trenton. “Budgets come and go. Taxes go up and down. But saving lives [ ] that lasts forever.”
Legislators have introduced bills that would alter the state’s drug court program, making treatment mandatory for any qualifying offender determined to have a problem with substance abuse. Drug court, which began as a pilot in Camden and Essex Counties in 1996, has allowed some offenders to avoid jail if they volunteer for treatment. Christie budgeted $2.5 million in fiscal 2013 for his initiative, but it would cost more to implement. As many as 7,000 people arrested annually could qualify for the program. Because it costs as much as $49,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate, Christie said, the state would save money by moving nonviolent offenders out of prison and into rehabilitation.