Citing a poll it commissioned, a national group that opposes mandatory sentencing laws will push for expansion of drug courts in New Jersey and elimination of required three-year jail terms for selling or buying drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Families Against Mandatory Minimums said 80 percent of New Jerseyans favor treatment and community service for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders instead of mandatory minimum prison terms, according to a poll by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.
The New Jersey corrections commissioner, some lawmakers, and courts are looking at the expense and fairness of mandatory sentencing for low-level drug offenders. A 15-member panel created by former Gov. James E. McGreevey is examining the state’s sentencing standards. Of the 16,746 inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences in the state, 11,940, or 71.3 percent, were sentenced on drug charges. “Studies show that treatment programs are more effective and less expensive than prisons,” said John Hulick of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency-New Jersey. “Rather than wasting costly prison beds on low-level drug offenders, New Jersey should expand its popular drug treatment programs and reform mandatory sentencing laws that prevent judges from determining appropriate sentences.”