Pubdate: Sun, 23 Sep 2007
Source: Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ)
Copyright: 2007 Home News Tribune
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


The state Supreme Court made both a sensible and morally sound 
decision last week when it ruled that the state's drug-treatment 
program for nonviolent offenders ought to be open to those with prior 
convictions. In the past, some prosecutors and judges have ruled that 
the program is available only to first-time offenders.

The prohibition made little sense since the program is not that old 
and therefore was not available to many nonviolent offenders the 
first time they were arrested.  It only stands to reason that a 
person with a drug habit is likely sooner or later to break the law 
again if he doesn't get help; to prohibit a drug user from accessing 
treatment simply because he came into the system too early or was 
arrested too often to qualify for it is unreasonable, especially 
since the court-run program is both effective and inexpensive.

Under the drug-court program, offenders are given probation only 
after they complete a six-month inpatient treatment program. They are 
monitored closely and tested often. Of the 885 offenders who have 
completed treatment and probation since the program began, only 14 
percent have been re-arrested within three years, compared to a 
national recidivism rate of 67.5 percent.

Treatment also costs about half of what imprisonment does: $17,266 to 
treat a drug addict compared to more than $34,000 to imprison him.

Drug court represents one of the most heartening developments in 
criminal justice in a long time. It is truly groundbreaking to think 
that through the intervention of caring counselors, judges and 
prosecutors, not only can crime be averted, but a person's life can be changed.

It only stands to reason that the option ought to be available to as 
many offenders as judges believe can benefit from it. They, and we, 
deserve that much. 
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