Measure To Expand NJ Drug Court Program Advances

TRENTON – The state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill on Tuesday that would expand eligibility for the New Jersey’s drug court substance abuse treatment program and create a pilot program in two counties in which anyone who’s eligible would be automatically enrolled in a drug treatment program.

“Under current law, robbery offenders are ineligible for treatment in lieu of prison,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a sponsor of the bill who testified during Tuesday’s committee hearing. “When I was robbed, April 18, 2009, it took creative discretion by the Union County Prosecutor, who, at my request, made Brian Kinney eligible to receive treatment for his addiction in place of continuing his life of crime to which most addict criminals resort, unless given an opportunity to participate in Drug Court’s vigorous, supervised treatment program.

“S-881 makes robbery offenders like Brian eligible as well as his partner, Antoine Neal, whose words, ‘Shoot him,’ were the first I heard when he and Brian were standing over my bed at two o’clock in the morning. Antoine had a prior second degree crime conviction which made him ineligible. Antoine has recently been released from prison but his chance of committing another crime against another victim and of returning to prison is much higher than Brian’s. S-881 would substantially reduce the chance of repeat offenses by drug and alcohol addicts and provide better safety for our residents.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.

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