In 2013, the United states had 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s inmates. One major cause of too many prisons and too many inmates is the excessive incarceration rate of non-violent inmates. A large number of non-violent inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. The majority of our prisons and jails warehouse the drug offenders without effective drug rehabilitation programs. This approach unfortunately continues upon the release of inmates into the community.
In 2012, more than 52,000 people were arrested in New Jersey for drug violations. Drug charges are the largest category of arrests every year in New Jersey. In New Jersey, over the last five years, it was recognized by the state and by certain local communities that drug addiction was a disease and not a crime. Gov. Chris Christie has moved the state towards treatment rather than incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Governor Christie has advocated prison reform as a way to save tax dollars. In 2012, he helped pass bipartisan legislation mandating drug treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent offenders. He has made it clear that drug treatment and not jail sentences was the path for reduction of crime.
On the local level in New Jersey, in Hudson County, the Correctional Facility director Oscar Aviles, and former Gov. Jim McGreevey, have instituted a holistic approach to treat drug offenders. Hudson’s prison program has provided counseling, group therapy and education to inmates. But this program goes one step further by supporting the former inmates with housing, employment options, and outpatient treatment services.
The recidivism statistics in Hudson County show that true rehabilitation programs will always prevail over warehousing and neglect of the incarcerated. Since 2009, just 23 percent of almost 700 inmates who have participated in the Hudson County program were re-arrested—while non-participants had a 55 percent recidivism rate.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com