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New Jersey seeks rehabilitation for drug offenders

For many people in New Jersey, a drug charge can be a stepping stone to a life of crime, as the prison cycle makes it difficult for individuals to get jobs and make contributions to society after going through the system. Things may be changing, though, as state drug crimes are treated differently in the age of enlightened criminal justice reform. About a decade ago, the state put forward a revolutionary drug court designed to rehabilitate and treat offenders rather than punish them harshly. It has made strides, giving those offenders a chance to overcome mistakes, and the program is now being expanded.

For those charged with drug possession, this court-mandated program can be especially meaningful. Offenders spend three to five years under the watchful eye of the court. They attend regular rehabilitation sessions, learn job skills, and check in with a judge who cares about their development. It is a system designed to support and motivate in a criminal justice world where most offenders are simply chastised. 

The good news for those charged with crimes is that this approach is getting results. Whether it is prescription drug crimes or illicit drugs, the accused are given an opportunity to succeed, and there is a light at the end of their tunnel. Sentences are still harsh, though, for people charged with drug trafficking and drug cultivation. Drug law reform moves slowly, and more serious crimes are still treated with a steel hammer.

Individuals charged with drug crimes in New Jersey still need the help of attorneys who are compassionate and skilled. Getting into the drug court requires an application, and not everyone is admitted. 

Source:, " N.J. drug court expands focus on recovery over jail," Stephanie Akin, Aug. 17, 2013

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