Scutari, Singleton, Cunningham Legislation To Expand Drug Court Passes Senate

Trenton – The Senate passed legislation today sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari, Troy Singleton and Sandra Cunningham expanding eligibility, procedures, and post-program relief for certain drug-or-alcohol dependent people who are sentenced to special probation, requiring individuals to attend addiction treatment programs.

The bill, S-241/S-491 would provide that a sentence to special probation would be for a term of up to five years, rather than the current law’s five-year term. It would eliminate ineligibility for special probation based on having two or more previous convictions of non-violent crimes. The legislation gives judges more discretion to lengthen an individuals’ time in drug court and reduce excessive punishments, which is in line with national best practices.

“Under current laws, sentencing for special probation makes it difficult for those with addictions to truly get the rehabilitation treatment they need without consequences for minor infractions,” said Senator Scutari (D- Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “This legislation will allow for treatment and special probation to be more accessible to those who need it.”

“Currently, judges consider a list of criteria when requiring commitments to residential treatment facilities. Under this bill, the court would instead consider recommendations from a diagnostic assessment,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “This allows for treatment to be geared towards the specific needs of the individual, which will ultimately promote true recovery.”

“This bill will ensure that New Jersey’s 21 Drug Courts comply with the latest national best practices, with extreme regard to equity, inclusion and evidence-based practices,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson).

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 22-9.