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Drug treatment would better treat drug problem in New Jersey

Largely due to the entertainment industry's portrayal of drug users, the general public tends to have a somewhat flawed perspective of those who use drugs. Sure, there are the extreme cases of violent drug offenders, but there are also those drug offenders in New Jersey who might surprise many.

The neighbor next door or a coworker in the cubicle over could have a drug problem. The abuse of prescription drugs, for example, has boomed in recent years and affects people from all walks of life. Some in New Jersey, including Gov. Chris Christie, believe that a new approach to treating those charged with drug crimes in New Jersey should be investigated.

Christie put together a team devoted to studying how to better address drug use in the state. By better understanding the trends of drug offenders, the state hopes to discover and execute a plan that would be more effective at addressing drug addiction and reducing the rate of drug crimes.

Serving jail time not only is expensive for the state, but it also might be responsible for the cycle of drug offenders serving time, getting out and then serving time again once they fall back into bad habits and behaviors. The theory is that if drug offenders had easier access to treatment programs they would more likely curb their addictions and, therefore, not engage in illegal behaviors again.

Even if treatment were to be proven as the best way to prevent drug crimes in New Jersey, sending every person charged with a drug offense in the state to treatment, even just the non-violent offenders, would be impossible. Currently, there is not enough room in state centers.

Do you have any perspective on this issue? Would the state be better served by expanding treatment programs and sentencing more drug offenders to treatment rather than incarceration?

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Inquirer Editorial: Drug treatment too hard to get in New Jersey," Oct. 14, 2012