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Vitale/Cruz-Perez Bill Providing Access to Drug Treatment Programs for Inmates Signed Into Law

Senator Vitale

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez that would provide access to drug treatment programs for inmates in State correctional facilities with detainers or open charges issued against them was signed into law on Friday.

The law, S-2409, eliminates the restriction pursuant to regulations of the Department of Corrections that excludes inmates with detainers or open charges from eligibility to participate in drug treatment programs operating within State correctional facilities.

Currently, in order to participate in drug treatment available as part of the residential community release program, the mutual assistance program, or the therapeutic community substance abuse disorder treatment program, an inmate is required to be classified as “full minimum custody status.” Inmates who have any detainers or open charges from any jurisdiction issued against them are excluded from “full minimum custody status.”

“If we don’t treat inmates battling with addiction, studies show that they will continue to be entangled in the criminal justice system, and that is a disservice to everyone,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This law simply allows access to treatment programs without exception of open detainers or charges.”

Under the new law, an inmate with a detainer or open charge will only be eligible for drug treatment programs which operate in State correctional facilities.

“New Jersey’s fight against addiction is an uphill battle, but all efforts to expand access to treatment add to the momentum we are building,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Updating old practices that don’t reflect our current priorities is the right thing to do, especially when it means removing barriers to substance abuse treatment in the state’s correctional facilities.”

The law takes effect on the first day of the fourth month following enactment, but the Commissioner may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance as deemed necessary for implementation.

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