Citing his pro-life beliefs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, became the latest political leader to slam the current “war on drugs” as a “failure.” Instead of putting illegal-drug users in prison, first-time non-violent offenders should be sentenced to mandatory treatment and rehabilitation programs, the GOP governor argued during a speech at the Brookings Institution this week.
The remarks came in the wake of a new law in New Jersey seeking to reform some elements of the state’s dealings with addicts and narcotics users. Passed overwhelmingly by the legislature last month but criticized by Gov. Christie for its “piecemeal” approach, the measure creates a pilot program ordering certain people caught with drugs into a year-long treatment regime instead of imposing criminal penalties.
"The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure," Gov. Christie argued in his speech. “If you're pro-life, as I am, you can't be pro-life just in the womb. Every life is precious and every one of God's creatures can be redeemed, but they won't if we ignore them.
According to Gov. Christie, the new program makes sense in economic terms, too, potentially saving taxpayers vast sums of money over time. "It costs us $49,000 a year to warehouse a prisoner in New Jersey state prisons last year," he explained. "A full year of inpatient drug treatment costs $24,000 a year."
Despite Gov. Christie’s pleas, Democrat lawmakers were hesitant to expand the scheme even further due to worries about the price tag, according to news reports. However, if it the pilot program proves to be more successful than prisons, after further study, it could be rolled out across the whole state in the coming years.
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Photo: Same venue, last year: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Brookings Institution on April 7, 2011: AP Images