Dear Chris Christie: Forcing All First-Time Drug Offenders Into Rehab Is Not Compassionate, But It Is a Waste of Money

In a speech before the Brookings Institution, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked about a new law in his state that sends all first-time drug offenders to state-run rehab. "If you're pro-life, as I am, you can't be pro-life just in the womb," Christie said in defending the law to conservatives.  

Yahoo!'s Chris Moody reports:  

Just weeks after New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that would establish a program offering medical treatment for non-violent drug offenders instead of jail time, Christie, a possible vice presidential contender, praised the measure during a speech in Washington, D.C.

"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," Christie said during a wide-ranging Monday morning address at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research organization. "But they won't be if we ignore them. ... I believe that the results will show after this is fully implemented will be startling because people can be treated and miracles happen every day at these facilities. Lives are restored."

In a move that sets Christie apart from the many Republicans who take a hard line on drug enforcement, Christie predicted that the recently passed measure, which mandates drug rehabilitation treatment for first time non-violent offenders, would be a success. He added that drug abuse should be considered an issue of "disease" in the eyes of the law, and not a criminal one.

There are many, many problems with the drug-control model New Jersey has adopted, starting with the fact that in many states, diverted drug users face harsher sentences for relapsing than they would have if they'd plea bargained their initial drug charges. But the bigger problem is that New Jersey's policy--like Obama's wider drug control strategy--is not reflective of reality. Not every illicit drug user is an addict, which means not every illicit drug user needs addiction recovery services.

Putting a college sophomore caught with a month's worth of pot through rehab is less sadistic than putting him in prison, but it's not compassionate, and it's not criminal justice reform. In fact, it's more like a game of three-card Monte. 

Furthermore, it's not a way to save money. Instead of paying a state prison to ruin a recreational user's job prospects and criminalize him, you're paying a drug counselor to ask him why he can't just throw back a few shots of Ketel One like a law-abiding citizen, a social worker to visit his house and ask his kids what their daddy does at night, and a toxicology lab to check his piss for THC. You may waste less money by doing this to him for six months to a year, instead of six years to ten, but you aren't saving money. You're simply wasting that money more benignly, and turning otherwise law-abiding, productive members of society into wards of the state.

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  • ||

    This is up there with the best anonbot comments of all time.

  • some guy||

    I know. He's getting smarter every day...

  • #||

    This is still probably a better situation then throwing people in jail, even if not ideal

  • The Hammer||

    How? How is it better than throwing them in jail? How is it any different, except for being more expensive?

  • #||

    Would you rather spend time in jail or a rehab center? Especially if you are indeed an addict.

  • John||

    If I am not an addict, which most drug offenders aren't, I would rather go to jail. Rehab is fucking awful.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    According to Drug Warriors, one toke of a joint = shooting heroin into your cock.

  • justmyopinion129||

    Have you ever been to jail? Probably not. I agree isnt a best case scenario to send someone to rehab when they don't need it but I guarantee if you ask people most people would rather go to rehab than jail.

  • wareagle||

    it's better in terms of moving on with your life. You generally don't have to explain a stint in rehab to anyone; good luck with -not- mentioning that criminal conviction you picked up. I'd take rehab over jail any day.

  • Gray Ghost||

    You generally don't have to explain a stint in rehab to anyone; good luck with -not- mentioning that criminal conviction you picked up.

    I am confused. Wouldn't they have a conviction under Christie's plan too, only the sentence here is rehab/probation rather than jail time? Can an employer ask if a prospective employee has ever been admitted to inpatient rehabilitation for drug use or would that be a violation of HIPAA to ask?

    All that said, I still think that it'll be a lot harder for the unlikely convict to get through the rehab system than Christie's making it sound. See John's example of LiLo below.

  • wareagle||

    I could be wrong, but wouldn't one's record be wiped clean after the successful completion of such a program? I read it as a means of keeping you out of prison - and keeping you from having a prison record - but again, I may be missing something.

  • Gray Ghost||

    IANAL, but my guess is, if it's treated the same as Deferred Adjudiation, then treatment of the case differs significantly state by state. From the wiki,

    In some states such as Texas, Deferred Adjudication is not treated as a criminal conviction as a matter of law, however there is no easy way to remove the record of the case from one's background. This creates difficulties with private entities performing background checks such as employers and apartment complexes, as they can see the case, charge and its outcome, and often simply treat it the same as though it were a conviction for purposes of their review.

    So, you get to avoid jail, and you can claim that you were never convicted of a felony/misdemeanor, but if the background check still shows the DA case and settlement, I'm not sure how you're better off?

    Especially since the rehab/counseling etc... is not going to be cheap. Again, if it's like traffic beefs, AIUI, it's often cheaper for your indigent client to go to the hole for a few days, because they don't have the money for their fines. (Or their attorney, insurance; really, anyone other than their bail bondsman.) They certainly don't have the $$$ for $5k+ for rehab. And stiffing the state on the bill is probably going to be another crime they can get rung up for.

  • Gray Ghost||

    FWIW, here's the bill in the NJ Legislature. That might have been helpful to link to in the OP.

    From it, the term of "special probation" is 6 months to 5 years. I can't tell from a cursory scan whether all of that time has to be at the residential rehab facility. The bill does say that the convicted will be incarcerated until space is available at the facility and it does say that the convict must comply with all facility rules and any violation may result in their probation being violated. At which time they get sentenced for whatever crime they pleaded out to.

    I dunno whether they get credit on their sentence for rehab time. I also can't parse which crimes are eligible for this special probation treatment, other than that murder, possessing a gun while you were slinging dope, and selling to kids in a school zone, make you ineligible.

  • niobiumstudio||

    I'd take PTI over rehab or jail anyday in NJ. Any lawyer worth a damn will get a first time weed offender PTI with no jail time, short probation, and it will be eligible for expungement after 1 year. Even if you have it bagged up and get intent to distribute, a decent lawyer will get that thrown and get you eligible for PTI. Considering it is only available to first time offenders, I don't know why anyone would EVER take this route over PTI. I can't speak for everyone in NJ since I am middle-class and white and almost everyone I know who was arrested for poss. was in college or working full time, but if PTI is available, why would anyone even consider this?

  • John||

    It is worse. It is more expensive than jail. And also more oppressive. Jail just punishes. Rehab seeks to brain wash.

  • nicole||

    This. Can someone remind me again why it isn't a violation of the first amendment to make people do programs like this, which almost inevitably require you to make various statements to "pass"? Statements like, "I believe in a higher power" or "I admit that I am powerless over my addiction" or even "I am an addict"?

  • John||

    The First Amendment angle is an interesting one. To pass these programs you have to admit you are an addict. The courts certainly have the power to throw you in jail, but I fail to see how they have the power to force you to say you are an addict.

    Indeed, these programs are especially insidious for people who are not addicts. I knew several kids in college whose parents sent them to rehab over single incidents of under age drinking or pot. These kids were most certainly not addicts. Yet, were eventually convinced they were by these idiotic programs. Only later did they realize they never were addicts to begin with.

  • SugarFree||

    AA and the like skirt the issue by saying that the "higher power" is not necessarily God, but anything you want it to be.

    It's the being forced to admit you're an addict that troubles me the most, considering that the vast majority of first time offenders are not in any way addicts. So they either make you lie or brainwash you until you believe a lie.

  • John||

    They brainwash you to believe a lie, which is very damaging in many cases.

  • Invisible Finger||

    They make you lie with a straight face, just like a politician/bureaucrat.

    But they will never know what I really believe. Nor will they know how often I hope a higher power accelerates their demise.

  • nicole||

    AA and the like skirt the issue by saying that the "higher power" is not necessarily God, but anything you want it to be.

    Right, I'm aware of this, and I think it's BS because the "anything you want it to be" is clearly BS and whatever. But I think there should also be a nonreligious 1A problem, in forcing you to make all kinds of other declaratory statements. John is the lawyer, and if he doesn't see how they can make you say you are an addict, I sure don't.

    Also, the brainwashing is real. One of my greatest friends got to do one of these rehab stints after a DUI. He's been "clean and sober" for five years now and is fully convinced that he is an alcoholic--something I never saw any evidence for in years of friendship. He just made the wrong call one night after a party.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Further, why do people think that first offenders are going to be able to make it through these rehab programs? If they're run anything like the current probation regime, the system is set up to make it very easy to fail, and requires much more $$$ than simply going to jail would cost. What if Christie's hypothetical first-time offenders piss hot during their rehab stint? Are they violated back into county jail? Sent to rehab again at their cost?

    Why can't we just legalize the stuff already, and crack down on people who use it inappropriately (driving, etc...)? [Yeah, yeah; I know.] His proposal is just a gold-plated handout to the rehab/mandatory counseling/employer of MSWs industry.

  • John||

    There are a ton of people sitting in prison right now because they couldn't make it through probation. This just sets these people up to be stuck in the system forever.

    To take a famous example, consider Lindsey Lohan. The only actual crime she has committed has been a single DUI. All of her other problems and jail time has been the result of her failing drug tests and fucking up probation. She has been in the system for years now. She would have been better off doing 30 days and being done with the whole thing.

    Sending people to rehab just creates thousands of people stuck in the system like Lohan.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Finally, because I have other shit to do than wail about New Jersey's woes, this NYT article is about Christie's ties to a company that, in all likelihood, will be getting a lot of these rehab contracts. [Cont.]

  • Gray Ghost||

    [Friggin' character limit.]

    FTA:

    Mr. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, has for years championed the company that plays a principal role in the New Jersey system, Community Education Centers.

    Community Education received about $71 million from state and county agencies in New Jersey in the 2011 fiscal year, out of total halfway house spending of roughly $105 million, according to state and company records.

    The company first obtained substantial contracts for its 're-entry centers' in New Jersey in the late 1990s, as state financing began increasing sharply. In recent years, it has cited its success in New Jersey in obtaining government contracts in Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states.

    William J. Palatucci, who is the governor’s close friend, political adviser and former law partner, is a senior vice president at Community Education.

    Mr. Christie himself was registered as a lobbyist for the company in 2000 and 2001 when he was a private lawyer, according to disclosure reports that his law firm filed with the state. In early 2010, he hired the son-in-law of Community Education’s chief executive as an assistant in the governor’s office, according to state personnel records.

    It's crony capitalism, all over again. The only difference between Obama and the modern GOP are the cronies they support.

  • wareagle||

    fine...so they worked through a few psychological questions. Beats the hell out of clicking "yes" on the have-you-been-convicted button, unless employers have changed their ways and started embracing folks who did time.

  • justmyopinion129||

    I totally agree... I actually did go to rehab a very long time ago and I HATED what they try to make you say and believe. I dont believe that people who are addicts have a disease either or that they are powerless over their drug of choice. Comparing sniffing cocaine, smoking a joint, taking heroine, alcohol, pills, whatever to having a disease is crazy. It's a choice. People with cancer dont choose to have cancer. They can't "Stop" having cancer. It's a dangerous thing to tell people in the first place... you may as well let them walk in the door of rehab and say "hey you are powerless, you are an addict and you have a disease" and let them walk right out. It gives people a reason to relapse. 12 step programs don't deal with WHY a person is abusing a drug... there's always reasons behind it or feelings they are masking that they don't want to deal with. If they dealt with those things and helped them figure out new ways to deal with their problems, depression, etc. and stop making people feel powerless over a substance then maybe more people would have a chance at stopping.
    Sorry went on a rant there lol.

  • niobiumstudio||

    In NJ every first time offender gets PTI. None of them EVER go to jail (I know a lot of people caught in the last 5 years for Weed Poss. - one with intent to distribute) and all get probation for 1 - 5 years with community service. I have never met someone who was a first time offender in NJ who spent more than a night in jail. This is just plain old retarded. Nobody in NJ goes to jail for weed the first time - unless they have an absurd amount or a gun (or they are black and poor).

  • sarcasmic||

    Drug counselors, social workers and lab techs are people too.

    Why do you want to destroy their jobs?

  • some guy||

    Not creating = destroying, right?

  • thom||

    At least when you throw people who break your petty, pointless laws into prison, you're treating them like adults.

  • John||

    How about cookie rehab for fat boy?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    What the hell does being pro-life have to do with mandatory drug rehab programs? Sorry fatso, but you can count this pro-lifer out of your little club.

  • SugarFree||

    It's always got to be two steps forward and three step back for Christie, doesn't it?

  • John||

    You have to remember he managed to get elected in New Jersey. So you knew he had to be retarded in some way. Intelligent reasonable people just don't get elected in places like Jersey.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Perhaps it was hopeful thinking to assume that his retardation manifested in his love of Springsteen.

  • The Hammer||

    I can't really see that fat fuck taking 5 total steps.

  • Mike Parent||

    "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked about a new law in his state that sends all first-time drug offenders to state-run rehab. "
    So, rehab for marijuana, too, or is he for legalizing MJ, and dealing with all Hard drugs via rehab?
    Because if it's for MJ, too, it is a very ridiculous law.

  • Mike Riggs||

    It's for marijuana, too. (The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has done a bang-up job insuring that pot is treated with the same seriousness as other drugs, seeing as pot users comprise 25 percent of a drug court's caseload.)

  • Mike Parent||

    Rehab and treatment for a non addictive and relatively (no one's ever died from ingesting it) safe substance. WHO wrote that law??

  • ||

    UUumm...politicians.

  • Mike Parent||

    Specifically, what were their names?

  • some guy||

    I'm still waiting for them to go after caffeine.

    Logically, alcohol would be next on the list, but he already did his stint in prohibition.

  • Proprietist||

    Dude, they're just trying to prevent face-eatings by Snooki on the Jersey shore boardwalk. Weed does that you know!

  • ||

    Alt text - I am disappoint.

  • John||

    I don't generally watch TV news. So I hadn't ever really seen Christie. Jesus, he really is a fat bastard.

  • ||

    Now there's alt text...I wasn't seeing it earlier.

  • some guy||

    "How many fat fucking fingers am I holding up? Three? Wrong. The one on the left is a Twinkie."

  • Cavpitalist||

    If'n I might anecdotize...

    I was a problem drinker in the Army. No one could claim with a straight face that I was an alcoholic, I just get arrested when I drank a little more than was acceptable.

    The Army forced me to go to an impatient rehab, and I almost got kicked out in the first week for refusing to admit that I was a powerless addict. Eventually, I gave in and started telling them whatever they wanted to hear.

    The number one thing I saw in that place was this - 3/4 of the people there were not, in any measurable way, "addicts". Their presence was a constant distraction from the 1/4 who were there for very legitimate reasons.

    No one who was forced to be there got anything out of the experience. Those who were there out of an earnest desire to improve were marginalized by all the time wasted on idiots like me.

    One guy there had been shot in the head twice in combat, and we were in the same group. I liked to get drunk and fight, he was hooked on pills from multiple surgeries, and we got the same treatment. So, nobody won - not the non-addict forced to admit addiction, not the addict desperately seeking help, not the military who wasted all their money on both.

  • wareagle||

    it's not a good system, but how would your Army career - of post-Army, for that matter - been helped if you had a couple of convictions and jail terms on your record?

    As it is, I amazed (given that it's the Army) that the pill guy who had been wounded got anything at all. Guy does his job with honor and no small cost, and you have to wonder if he later got derailed for seeking help.

  • Schu||

    Doesn't a stint with ADAPC stay on your record? I always thought that was absurd. Same with the mental health stuff.

  • R C Dean||

    impatient rehab

    Sweet.

  • some guy||

    No one who was forced to be there got anything out of the experience.

    That is the most important thing you can say about these programs. They can work wonders for willing participants because they can provide an extensive, 24/7 support network. They will completely fail for anyone not there willingly. Even if you are an addict these programs will only help if you want them to help.

  • Abdul||

    I used to do addicition counseling for smokers. A successful program was one that had a 20% success rate. Most smokers quit 5-7 times before being able to be smoke free for over a year.

    I can't imagine that compelled rehab, as opposed to the voluntary rehab I was doing, will break the 20% line.

  • ShagNasty||

    I had a somewhat similar experience. I failed a drug test at the boarding school I was attending in 10th grade and mu parents decided that I was a drug addict. They sent me to a total of 13 months of treatment programs. I in no way intended to quit smoking weed so the biggest thing I got out of the experience was I learned how to manipulate authorities very effectively. Dealing with an addiction is a very challenging thing and you're not going to get anywhere with it if you aren't ready and willing to change.

  • Juice||

    That's the way it works. You will stay in as long as it takes to break your will, meaning however long it takes for you to robotically repeat, "I am an addict and I am powerless." Soon after you do that, you leave. Nice racket if you can get into it.

  • ||

    Their presence was a constant distraction from the 1/4 who were there for very legitimate reasons.

    Good thought. I lost my ex to booze (I mean, his liver literally assploded after about 35 years of steady drinking), and the only rehab he ever did was with a bunch of court-ordered dudes who probably had no problem with substance abuse. I wonder if he might have had a slightly better shot without all those "offenders" taking up time.

  • justmyopinion129||

    I totally agree with you... even if someone is an addict you cant help someone that doesn't want to be helped.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Finally Chicago hasn't done something as stupid as New Jersey.

  • Schu||

    They're never going to legalize drugs no matter how many libertarians complain. There's just too many vested interests and they're an easy bogeyman to lash out at. This whole being pissy unless 100% of what you want is given to you shit is why people don't take us seriously.

    I view this law as a positive step away from the hard line stance that fucks up so many lives. I honestly don't know anyone that would rather go to jail than rehab, so by definition it's a softening of the overall system and stance, no? That's progress. It's not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.

  • R C Dean||

    Its a step in a different direction, but it institutionalizes in a different way all kinds of bad things. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that its progress.

    Now, treating pot like hard liquor is the kind of incrementalism I can get behind. Putting you in a different and more expensive kind of jail, meh.

  • Schu||

    Who said six months of rehab is more expensive than six years of jail? Yes, it's a waste of money in either case, but I'd rather get the person back into society as a contributor with a quicker turnaround.

    Also, whoever said that being sentenced to jail is being treated like an adult is, well that's just lolzy. Jail is the ultimate 'we're going to treat you like a child until you learn how to behave' experience. Every moment of your life is planned out for you by someone else because you're considered to be too stupid and irresponsible to make those decisions for yourself. More adult-like... please.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I agree that it is a small step in the right direction. Probably.

    I disagree that people don't take us seriously because we fail to bow before our masters every time they throw us serfs a crumb of justice or a tiny morsel of common sense. Fuck them, we want it all.

  • Schu||

    Well, that's why people throw out the 'why don't you move to Somalia?' bullshit. You have to compromise in life, otherwise you end up getting none of what you want instead of some. There's just too many different life philosophies for one to get everything they want.

    I'll take this bit of progress, but it doesn't mean I won't stop asking for more. I just accept that change is incremental.

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