For immediate release: August 30, 2005
For further information: Winnie Comfort
Judiciary Celebrates First Anniversary of Statewide Drug Courts
September 1, 2005 is the first anniversary of New Jersey's statewide drug court program, today announced Judge Philip S. Carchman, administrative director of the courts. It has been one year since drug courts were implemented in Burlington, Hudson, Middlesex, Atlantic/Cape May, and Somerset/Hunterdon/Warren Vicinages, making drug courts available to all qualified New Jersey residents.
"Today we celebrate the difference that drug courts are making in the lives of non-violent, drug-addicted offenders seeking to end the cycle of drugs and crime that has consumed their lives," said Judge Carchman. "Thanks to legislation in 2004, we are able to offer this opportunity regardless of where the defendant lives."
Drug court is a highly specialized team process that functions within the existing Superior Court Criminal Division to address nonviolent, drug-related cases. It is unique in the criminal justice environment because it builds a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. Within a cooperative courtroom atmosphere, the judge heads a team of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment professionals, all working in concert to support and monitor a participant's recovery. Together, they maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement.
First introduced in 1996 in Camden and Essex Vicinages, drug courts were implemented in Passaic, Mercer and Union Vicinages in 1999. Legislative appropriations enabled the expansion of drug courts into Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean, Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem and Morris/Sussex Vicinages in 2002. Additional legislation in 2004 provided the funding needed to implement drug courts in the remaining five vicinages.
Drug courts have proven to be a cost-effective alternative to incarceration. One year of drug court costs approximately $19,200 per participant (including six months of in-patient treatment), compared to about $35,000 for incarceration. Each baby born drug-free to a drug court participant saves $750,000 to $1 million in medical expenses. The cumulative retention rate for drug court participants is 70 percent, and the rate of re-conviction for drug court graduates is 6 percent. In addition, drug courts address the problem of minority over-representation in prison. Currently, 60 percent of drug court participants belong to a minority group.
Since their inception, drug courts have served 5,110 New Jersey residents. There are 2,152 participants around the state, including 334 in the five newest vicinages.
For more information on drug courts, go to njcourtsonline.com.