What is the Value of Drug Court?

By John “J.P.” McCormick, Summer Associate
Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks, LLC

The New Jersey Drug Courts are uniquely established to build a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals in order to stop the abuse of alcohol, drugs, and related criminal activities. Participants in Drug Court are closely monitored, and held very accountable. Among other things, they must submit to regular drug testing, and appear frequently before a judge. The program was designed to last five years, but by meeting certain obligations as staying drug and crime free, participants are able to graduate early (usually within three years).

New Jersey’s Drug Courts began in Camden and Essex counties in 1996. By 2004, every other vicinage in New Jersey had a Drug Court. Since 2002, 13,079 participants have enrolled in New Jersey Drug Courts. In 2008, New Jersey became the second state to receive the nonprofit National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ award for its commitment and efforts in providing a Drug Court for all eligible applicants.

Having worked with a judge that oversaw a Drug Court, I have personally seen the impact and value of Drug Courts. The unfortunate truth is that most people know someone struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. The Drug Courts are an opportunity to help some of those people overcome this lifelong challenge. They may not work for everybody, but when participants fully embrace the process, and work with the counselors – instead of against them – people can graduate drug, alcohol, and crime free. The Drug Courts are also being endorsed by famous individuals who have attained certain levels of notoriety for the struggles with substance abuse.

On Monday, July 15, 2013, boxing legend and hall of famer Mike Tyson addressed the graduates of Essex County, N.J.’s Drug Court. Tyson shared the story of his long-time battle with substance abuse, and his time spent in jail, and in various rehabilitation treatment facilities. On Monday, he congratulated the participants who had made it through, stating “I’m really proud of these graduates…you all look like wounded warriors, but we won.” Tyson went on to caution the graduates that it is a lifelong battle, one that he has been able to overcome with a strong support system, which was a theme echoed by the other speakers that day. Tyson added, “No one’s going to [get through life] without enduring any kind of suffering or pain.”

Drug and alcohol abuse is a lifetime challenge. In recognition of this challenge, in 2008 the New Jersey legislature amended the drug court statute to allow participants to be admitted a second time to the program. So strongly do many people believe in the value of Drug Court, that Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren and Ocean have made it mandatory for eligible nonviolent drug offenders in those counties.

If you need legal advice about your case, and a knowledgeable attorney to guide you through the criminal process, contact Edward J. Dimon or Adam Carman, both of Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks, L.L.C. at (732) 797-1600.

Outside information for this article comes from: David Gialanella’s “Addiction is a Tough Opponent, Tyson Tells Drug Court Grads,” New Jersey Law Journal; and, New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Addiction Services, available at http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/das/treatment/drugcourt/.

J.P. McCormick is entering his third year at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he is an Executive Editor for the University of New Hampshire Law Review. Upon finishing his third year of law school, J.P. intends to practice in New Jersey, and is interested in all aspects of civil law.  You can follow him on Twitter @JP_McCormick.

 

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