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A measure advancing in the New Jersey legislature would expand the number of criminal offenders who are eligible for court-supervised drug and alcohol treatment.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who was robbed at home by two men on drugs, has become the leading advocate for the legislation. The bill also would launch a pilot program in several counties that would automatically enroll low-level drug offenders in a recovery program, the Associated Press reports.

The measure was approved by the state Senate Budget Committee, and now heads to the full Senate. A similar bill is under consideration in the Assembly.

Governor Chris Christie has proposed mandatory drug treatment for all nonviolent drug offenders in New Jersey. He said his plan frees up prison space for more serious criminals, while saving the state money, by stopping the warehousing of people with drug problems.

The bill under consideration in the legislature is not as large in scope as the governor’s proposal, the AP notes. Lesniak’s bill would start with a pilot program in two counties, along with expanded statewide eligibility for offenders who volunteer for treatment.

“We don’t know that mandatory treatment is effective,” Lesniak said. He noted there are not enough treatment beds and professionals to handle a large number of new clients. “We don’t want to deny someone who volunteers for treatment because someone else was forced into treatment,” he added.


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