Senate Panel Advances Cunningham-Turner Bill To Help Drug Courts

Senator Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, listens to testimony before the Senate Labor Committee.

TRENTON – In a bid to expedite efforts to rehabilitate drug offenders instead of just locking them up in prison, a Senate panel today approved a bill, sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Shirley K. Turner, to create two new Superior Court judgeships dedicated to handling drug cases.

“The State’s drug court program can achieve its goals to get offenders straightened out and working if it has enough judges on the bench to move the cases,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “This bill moves us in the right direction.”

“We’ve wasted too much money for too many years by incarcerating drug offenders without dealing with their addictions and their need for job training,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer.

The bill, S-1950, was approved without opposition by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee and now goes before the full Senate. It would create two additional judgeships who would be charged with hearing drug cases under the State’s recently expanded program designed to make 400 additional drug offenders eligible for intensive supervision, drug treatment, counseling and job training.

“By investing in our judicial system now, we will get long term savings – for the families of drug offenders in getting new lives and for space in the corrections system for the truly incorrigible criminals,” Senator Cunningham said.

Senator Turner said the judges are needed because delays in the justice system are preventing the merits of the drug court programs from being realized throughout New Jersey.

“What’s good about this bill is that it would allow the Administrative Office of the Courts to assign these judges to vicinages in New Jersey where they can do the most good,” Senator Turner said.