Earlier this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced a sweeping change to the way in which the Garden State will handle non-violent drug offenders. Strapped for cash and looking for ways to cut costs where ever possible, the governor announced a comprehensive plan to help keep non-violent drug offenders out of the state’s already overcrowded jails. But this plan is driven by much more than just budgetary constraints and cutbacks. The governor also recognizes that running these types of offenders through the criminal justice system does nothing to make these individuals productive members of society. The consequences of New Jersey’s draconian drug policies are putting otherwise law-abiding citizens in jail. This practice is hurting the state’s poor and people of color the most. The majority of those incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses in New Jersey are black men. The status quo is only hurting their families and especially their children, as many of them rely on these men as the sole breadwinners in their family. These unintended consequences are costing the state even more. According to the Star-Ledger, the Governor’s initiative calls for:
- Expanding the state’s Drug Court program, which allows those convicted of certain non-violent drug offenses to bypass incarceration by agreeing to a strict regimen of court appearances and drug or alcohol treatment and other recovery services to break the addiction.
- The creation of the Task Force for Recidivism Reduction, which will coordinate the many treatment and re-entry programs across the state government to bolster re-entry efforts, as well as make recommendations to the governor on how to improve those programs.
- An assessment of the effectiveness of all re-entry programs currently offered using a real-time recidivism database, which will allow officials to track individuals and the success of the programs they participate in. Using the data, the task force will identify programs that fail and suggest how resources could be better spent to improve recidivism rates.