Substance abuse and addiction is the underlying issue for many people in the U.S. justice system. A report by the Urban Institute shows that just under 30 percent of prisoners are incarcerated for drug crimes and 80 percent of inmates have a drug or alcohol problem.

The causal connection between substance use and related criminal behavior prompted New Jersey policymakers to attempt to reduce crime proactively by using drug courts that stress treatment and recovery for non-violent offenders instead of lengthy prison sentences. Camden and Essex Superior Courts implemented the drug court program in 1996, but due to its success it has expanded since then. Experts are now calling for the program to be standard statewide.

Drug courts operate on a collaborative basis, using the judge to head a team of attorneys, court staff, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators and treatment professionals in a rigorous program to provide the drug offender with the resources to stop using whatever chemical to which he or she is addicted.

Drug courts have been a win-win for both the person convicted of drug possession and for New Jersey as a whole. Gov. Chris Christie, in his recent State of the State address, claimed that incarcerating a person for a drug crime costs $39,000 per year, while drug court costs only $12,000 per year per convict – another reason the Governor wants to expand the program. The Drug Court program works better too: the majority of drug offenders are re-arrested after getting out of jail, while only 16 percent of those who graduated from the drug program were convicted of another drug crime.

If you have been charged with a drug crime due to substance abuse, New Jersey’s unique drug court program might allow you to avoid a potentially devastating and lengthy prison sentence and start you on the road to recovery.

If you suffer from the disease of addiction and are facing criminal charges there may be help – contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with New Jersey’s drug courts to potentially avoid or reduce your prison sentence and get the help you need.

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