Too many tragedies are rooted in illegal drugs. Murders, robberies, the loss of loved ones to a misspent life in the haze of addiction, and the effects on families and entire neighborhoods are intolerable. Most crime in America is driven by the people who sell drugs and the people who buy them.
In addition to stepped-up treatment for offenders, New Jersey should consider making more treatment options available to those who haven't been caught up in the criminal justice system - yet. About 70 percent of New Jersey residents seeking treatment can get it, leaving a gap of 30 percent who can't.
Treatment works, not just for the users and their families, but society at large. An October 2010 state Drug Court report showed that offenders who were sentenced to treatment programs were convicted of new crimes at a rate of 8 percent, while new convictions for those who were not in treatment programs was 43 percent. On average, the annual cost of treatment was $11,379 per person vs. the cost of incarnation, $38,900.
The administration could not supply cost details for such a major transformation of state policy but, last November, the governor's office noted that New Jersey spends more than $225 million every year, not including $40 million on the Drug Court program, on its prevention and reentry programs for offenders who are abusers. This is a small price to pay for restoring human lives.
Pulling drug-crime programs together was a good idea. Making treatment required for all nonviolent offenders is an even better one. Hopefully, Christie can use his influence with governors in other states to get them to adopt this wise and heartfelt strategy.