The Drug Court Program began as a pilot program in 1996 in Essex and Camden counties. It proved extremely successful and was expanded in 2002 into Bergen, Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem, Monmouth, Morris/Sussex and Ocean counties. It is not yet available in other counties. The premise of the Drug Court is that many criminal offenses are committed by people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. These offenders are arrested for drug charges or crimes committed to get money for drugs and initially get a diversionary program, usually violate that, get a probationary term, either violate the probation or get re-arrested on new charges and end up serving jail sentences. They get out of jail and still being drug addicted simply go out and commit new crimes. They become caught in a cycle of being arrested and repeatedly sentenced to jail which does nothing to deter their conduct. The purpose of the Drug Court is to break the cycle and free the individual from their disease. Click to see the official description of the Drug Court Program (new window).
Drug Court is usually a last resort – used when all other programs have failed and the person is facing a jail sentence. Application is made through the defendant’s attorney for the program. Upon acceptance to the drug court participants begin an individually structured treatment program lasting generally from three to five years. They are required to attend treatment sessions, undergo random urinalysis, meet regularly with their probation officers, and appear frequently before the drug court judge. Persons who have previous convictions or pending charges for a violent are not eligible. If they complete the program successfully they are released from probation and are not sentenced to jail.
The Drug Court program includes:
- Regular court appearances
- Frequent and random drug testing
- Medical detoxification, if necessary
- Residential programs, if necessary
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Individual and group counseling
- 12-step, self-help groups
- Relapse prevention
- Sanctions and incentives
- Community service requirements
- Referrals to literacy volunteers, educational and job training programs