Girgenti And Sacco-Reforms Could Replace Fines For Drug Offenders

Senator Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, speaks with a colleague on the Senate floor regarding legislation being voted on.

The Senate today approved a bill, S-2930, sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti and Nicholas J. Sacco to allow drug offenders to get partial credit for monetary penalties if they complete a reform program that could include therapeutic treatment, job training and volunteer work in the community.

The bill passed 33-0 and was forwarded to the Assembly.

“If drug offenders do the work to turn their lives around, they deserve a break from the fines which could stall their recovery,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. “But this would not be a giveaway – they would have to complete the programs.”

“Job training, substance abuse treatment and counseling can be productive steps toward reform,” said Senator Sacco. “The breaks in this bill are worth trying if they can get offenders to take responsibility for their lives.”

Under the bill, offenders could appeal to a sentencing court to have a “reformative services” program serve as an alternative to half the fines they receive for drug offenses. The program, which would have to be completed prior to serving as credit, could include a variety of work, counseling and volunteer services specifically crafted for individual offenders/

Fines for various drug offenses routinely range from $3,000 per count for serious crimes down to $500 for petty disorderly counts. Reform advocates say pressures to meet the financial obligations associated with the penalties often lead offenders to further criminality and abuses and delay their recovery.

Funds from the drug penalties against offenders traditionally go to the “Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund” which is used to provide prevention and treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse.