Drug Court Unit

Drug Courts grew out of the realization at the grassroots level by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others that the old approach of a seemingly intractable cycle of incarceration followed by more incarceration was not producing a solution to drug-related criminal behavior and instead was just endlessly filling jail and prison cells. The enactment of New Jersey's "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1986," which resulted in a major increase in drug-related arrests and state prison sentences here, eventually sparked a realization that an alternative innovative approach was needed.  That approach is "Drug Court."

Drug Court is a probation sentence with significant conditions.  Its goal is to keep offenders whose criminal behavior has been caused by drug and/or alcohol abuse free from the influence of drugs and alcohol in their lives so that they may avoid future involvement in the criminal justice system.  Drug Courts work because judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers and substance abuse experts all work together cooperatively to construct and enforce a supportive atmosphere to encourage and monitor a participant's recovery.  Following an intensive screening process, accepted non-violent offenders with drug/alcohol problems enter a strictly-monitored substance abuse treatment program incorporated into a probationary term.  This proactive approach consists of treatment, counseling and other resources intended to assist participants with issues such as job training, education and health care. Drug Courts have been very successful in generating substantial cost savings by replacing costly incarceration with less expensive treatment programs.

The State of New Jersey has built one of the most successful and respected Drug Court programs in the country, with Drug Courts located in all 21 counties from Sussex to Cape May.  The NJOPD, an early advocate of Drug Courts along with the Judiciary and the Attorney General's Office, works to ensure that the program continues as an effective alternative to traditional criminal courts.  Historically, the NJOPD has represented approximately 90% of all New Jersey Drug Court participants.

The current Director of the NJOPD's Statewide Drug Court Unit is Deputy Public Defender Larry Bembry, who also serves as the Director of the NJOPD's ISP Office.  For more information, contact Mr. Bembry at 609-292-9350 or consult the New Jersey Drug Court website, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/drugcourt/index.htm