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New Jersey Senate Chambers

Legislation sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson, Bergen) to make state correctional facilities and county jails eligible for residential treatment program licenses in order to help drug offenders make an easier transition back into society was approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Under current law, a person convicted under federal or state law of any felony or crime that includes possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance would be ineligible for public assistance unless they are enrolled in or completed a licensed residential drug treatment program.

This bill (S-686/A-2295) would ensure that incarcerated individuals who participate in and complete drug treatment programs that meet the state’s licensure requirement can be eligible for critical public assistance when they released.

“Many drug offenders are already participating in these programs while incarcerated, and if these programs meet the state’s residential treatment standards then participants should not be denied public assistance upon release,” said Lesniak. “Getting public assistance can be the difference between a successful transition back into society and returning to prison.”

The bill requires the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails that meet state license requirements. The bill ensures these programs are not denied a license because they are located within a correctional setting.

The bill would also make qualified drug treatment programs in correctional facilities eligible for grants and additional benefits that currently are only available to licensed residential drug treatment programs.

“This bill is long overdue. The only reason these programs are not currently eligible for additional grants and other benefits is because they are located within a correctional facility,” said Sacco. “If they meet the requirements, then they should be eligible for the benefits and participants should be eligible for public assistance upon release.”

The bill passed by a vote of 33-0.

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