Already a vocal supporter of drug courts as a potential alternative to incarceration, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed into law a bill that will mandate treatment and avoid costly incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Rich Lowry’s recent column identifies this as a potential paradigm shift in national substance abuse policies, given Christie’s prominence as one of the country’s toughest conservatives. These days, as Lowry sees it, the national conversation is much more focused on treatment opportunities and ensuring that drug offenders find a way to kick their habit.
Choosing to support treatment, rather than incarceration, does not mean that one is unconcerned with substance abuse. When a careful inspection of the existing policy reveals high costs and low benefits, it is time to reevaluate the policy. Governor Christie and New Jersey’s legislative bodies deserve praise for attempting to find a more effective, less costly response to substance abuse.