Many people are talking about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s high-level proposal from his 2012 State of the State address to shift the governmental approach to drug use/abuse among the citizens of New Jersey.
The transcript (video excerpt in bold):
At the same time, let us reclaim the lives of those drug offenders who have not committed a violent crime. By investing time and money in drug treatment – in an in-house, secure facility – rather than putting them in prison.
Experience has shown that treating non-violent drug offenders is two-thirds less expensive than housing them in prison. And more importantly – as long as they have not violently victimized society – everyone deserves a second chance, because no life is disposable.
I am not satisfied to have this as merely a pilot project; I am calling for a transformation of the way we deal with drug abuse and incarceration in every corner of New Jersey.
So today I ask this Legislature and the Chief Justice to join me in this commitment that no life is disposable.
I propose mandatory treatment for every non-violent offender with a drug abuse problem in New Jersey, not just a select few. It will send a clear message to those who have fallen victim to the disease of drug abuse – we want to help you, not throw you away. We will require you to get treatment. Your life has value. Every one of God’s creations can be redeemed. Everyone deserves a second chance.
It’s being applauded. In an important way, it should be. He’s proposing a shift from prison to treatment. We’re long past the point at which society can pretend the War on Drugs has been or can be successful. Experience has consistently shown it will not work. Now, the War on Drugs is just an excuse to provide ever-increasing power to the government. Good riddance to any part of that we can dismantle.
But therein lies the problem with Gov. Christie’s proposal. While a move in the right direction, he’s not proposing the removal of the state’s police power from the discussion. He proposed mandatory treatment for every non-violent offender with a drug abuse problem. That leaves the state police power involved. His speech was too high-level to establish that this will be terrible or that it can’t be good if the details are specified. But who defines “offender”? Would buying drugs still be an offense? And who defines “problem”? Would mere use of a drug be considered evidence of abuse? That’s a considerable amount of discretion when discussing mandatory (i.e. compelled with force) treatment.
There is a flaw in the term “non-violent offender”. And he said “…God’s creatures can be redeemed” rather than something about having freedom to ingest whatever one wants or the irrational economics of putting a “non-violent offender” in jail. Gov. Christie needs to elaborate before I’ll assume this is a push for liberty rather than the 2012 version of compassionate conservatism.
I know the video doesn’t fit. At some point I’ll update my blog theme to something newer than 2005.