Proposed New Jersey Law Neglects Need For Increased Drug Abuse Prevention

New Jersey legislators Jerry Green, Annette Quijano, and Bonnie Watson Coleman are sponsoring a bill to remove the criminal record of first offense, non-violent drug offenders.

According to the statement from the lawmakers, “To qualify for automatic expungement, the person cannot have been convicted of any prior crime or have been adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person on more than two prior occasions; the conviction cannot be for any of the crimes that are ineligible for expungement under subsections b. and c. of N.J.S.2C:52-2; and the person cannot have had a previous criminal conviction expunged regardless of the lapse of time between the prior expungement and the completion of a sentence to special probation.”

First time, non-violent drug offenders may soon get a second chance by having their criminal record expunged thanks to New Jersey bill A2829.

While this bill is an important step in handling these cases, we need more to prevent drug offenses.

The efforts of some New Jersey lawmakers to introduce legislation that would automatically expunge the criminal records of first-time, nonviolent drug offenders is a sensible idea that should earn strong bipartisan support.

But in my role as a detoxification expert, my concern is how these individuals end up as drug offenders in the first place. State lawmakers need to know that between 60 and 70 percent of opiate dependents who arrive at Sunrise Detox and other such treatment centers are under 30 years old, don’t have full-time jobs, and have committed petty crimes to support their habit.

If we are truly going to reduce the number of drug users in New Jersey, we need to redouble our efforts at prevention. Once individuals have been apprehended, they likely have been drug abusers for years. In many cases, permanent damage has already been done.

Before this legislation is formally introduced, my hope is that state legislators closely examine the drug prevention programs already in place, analyze what other states are doing in the area of prevention, and develop a two-pronged solution.

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