TRENTON - Governor Christie made an appearance at a Rescue Mission in Trenton Thursday morning to reveal details on his proposal to expand drug courts throughout the state.
The governor announced he is putting forth a legislation that will expand drug courts into every county in New Jersey, making them mandatory for non-violent drug offenders who are clinically assessed to have a drug problem.
"The expansion through all 21 counties will make the public acknowledgement by this government that this is a disease and a treatable disease and one that we should take the time and spend the money to try and treat," said Christie.
The Atlantic County jail currently has a similar drug treatment program in place.
"Requiring individuals to substitute rather than incarceration is an outstanding idea, it has superlative merit, tremendous efficacy, the research really does demonstrate that it does work," said John McLernon, Director of Community Relations and Social Services with the Atlantic County Department of Public Safety.
The legislation would give them the tools they need to expand further according to McLernon.
"80-percent of our inmates that come in are substance dependent, this would have a dramatic assistance in helping them," said McLernon.
As part of the governor's plan he will extend the option for non-violent drug offenders currently in jail to participate in the treatment program as well.
"Those folks, just because they were unfortunate enough to be put in prison before we came awake to this problem and willing to work on it together, shouldn't be penalized for that," said Christie.
The governor said the legislation will also free up jail space reducing the cost to house these inmates for local taxpayers.
Still, Christie maintains the most important aspect of his proposal is that it will give non-violent drug offenders a second chance in society.
If the legislation is passed the Governor estimates it will take a year to get the drug courts up to full capacity throughout the state.