Should Drug Courts Be Mandatory? NJ’s Christie Says Yes


Since the first drug court opened in 1989 in Miami, every state has embraced the popular drug treatment program for nonviolent drug offenders. says The voluntary programs require that for at least a year, offenders submit to regular drug tests, check in with a judge, and complete court-prescribed treatments. If offenders fail a drug test, miss a court appearance or commit a new crime, they face strict sanctions, which can include jail.

Results show the program has consistently lowered recidivism rates, while returning on investments. It might follow that making the court mandatory would help even more people and reap more benefits for the community. New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney and board member of a halfway house for recovering addicts, thinks so. In his 2013 budget proposal, Christie asked for an additional $2.5 million investment in the state's drug court program to reach all eligible offenders, not just the ones who choose it. “Budgets come and go, taxes go up and down; but saving lives, that lasts forever,” Christie said. Drug court professionals are encouraged by Christie's strong endorsement of drug court, but some worry that the untested mandatory requirement could jeopardize the program's success.

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