Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor as a U.S. Attorney in that state, has announced an initiative to divert non-violent substance abusers to treatment, rather than prison.
On average, New Jersey taxpayers shell out more than $122 per day to imprison one offender—or almost $45,000 per offender per year. And, within three years of being released, 49% find themselves back in prison.
To reduce this heavy taxation burden and increase efficiency in the system, Christie has called for expanding the Drug Court Program, which offers treatment rather than prison to get substance abusers cleaned up and off the government roll. Other parts of Christie’s initiative include a task force aimed at tackling recidivism and assessing re-entry programs according to performance-based standards.
In 2010, New Jersey reported that only 4% of drug court graduates were incarcerated three years after completing a drug court program. Moreover, graduates gained an almost three-fold increase in employment. These results came at an average annual cost of $11,379.
This alternative to incarceration has a long track record of success, measured both in positive outcomes for offenders as well as costs to taxpayers, and it now has the support of a rising star in conservative politics.