Drug addiction always reminds me of the song by Neil Young, Needle and the Damage Done. It’s a pernicious DISEASE, many times turning productive members of society into slave-like beings who have little control over their own actions. Many drugs are addictive, but here I’m going to be talking most about heroin, which has reached epidemic levels. Yes, sometimes addiction results from casual drug use that escalates; however, over the years, I have seen many clients, who were injured, due to a work or car accident, and prescribed highly addictive pain killers, who sank into an addiction to relieve the unbearable pain they experienced. Unfortunately, as with many things, a substantial illegal black market developed, and these pills started being sold on the street to individuals with no injuries, who only wanted the “high” they provided. As a result, regulations were passed to crack-down on those prescriptions, preventing even those truly injured from getting sufficient doses.
Enter Heroin. Due to the crack-down, doctors have become reluctant and, in some ways even prohibited, from dispensing adequate doses to their patients. Heroin, a very cheap alternative, became the only option for many people suffering severe, chronic pain and, as most know, there’s generally only two ways off heroin, jail or death. So, in addition, to the regular drug users, we now have a sub-culture of middle and upper income individuals who are in a downward spiral, due to heroin and are losing their jobs, homes, spouses and children, not to mention their lives. Its causing otherwise law abiding citizens to enter the criminal justice system. I have sympathy for anyone suffering from addiction, whether they’re living on the street, or in a mansion. It’s not as simple as “get over it”, as some cold hearted individuals would suggest. Unfortunately, as with many things in our society, a problem isn’t properly addressed, until it reaches and effects upper income America.
And so Drug Courts are developed. Studies have shown that it is actually better for society, and less expensive, to treat a person with a drug addiction than to incarcerate them. Drug Court was designed for that purpose, and is an alternative program for non-violent defendants facing jail, as a result of crimes committed due to addiction. The charges can be drug charges or other crimes. The program provides treatment in lieu of jail and requires a defendant to undergo an assessment to determine his eligibility.
If approved for the program, the defendant receives drug treatment, drug testing, and must appear regularly before the Drug Court and his probation officer. The program can last between 12 and 24 months, is time consuming and intense. The object is to rehabilitate the defendant and eliminate the drug addiction, which lead to the criminal behavior. Although the program is essentially voluntary, directed to those defendants who are motivated to receive treatment and remove themselves from the vicious cycle of addiction, in some circumstances a Court can actually compel a defendant to attend Drug Court.
And it appears the program has been very successful. According to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, over 18,000 participants have been enrolled in Drug Court since it began in 2002. Over 4,000 have graduated the program. There are currently over 5,900 participants. Importantly, 84% of graduates are employed at the time of graduation, and approximately 61% have obtained a valid driver's license. For more information on Drug Court in New Jersey, you can visit: www.judiciary.state.nj.us.
All the Best!
Randy C. Redden