Charlie Sheen. Lindsay Lohan. Whitney Houston.
These celebrities have achieved great success. But what do we picture when we see their names? Is it talent, triumphs and passion, or chronic substance abuse, outlandish quotes and senseless antics?
Celebrities often seem to be afforded multiple opportunities at recovery and rehabilitation. But the typical New Jerseyan struggling with substance abuse tends to become trapped in a cycle of addiction, unemployment and incarceration.
Members of the New Jersey State Legislature are attempting to provide incarcerated individuals dealing with addiction the opportunity they are often denied.
The “Earn Your Way Out of Prison Into Supervision, Treatment, and Recovery Program,” in bills pending before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee (S-2614 and A-3703), offers people a path to recovery and rehabilitation.
The legislation proposes to reduce the penal sentence of a person imprisoned on drug-related charges by two years, provided he or she actively seeks to conquer their addiction during the first six months of incarceration.
During this time, the individual would be provided access to telephone and Internet services to receive the care and support of community programs and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
After six months, those deemed eligible would be accepted into a community-based rehabilitation program. Under the guidance of a parole officer, they would be moved through a series of treatment centers along a path to renewed health, recovery and inclusion in society.
The “Earn Your Way Out” bill takes public safety into account and is structured to ensure people convicted of certain violent offenses would not be eligible for the program. Only other individuals whose criminal behavior is deemed to be caused by their addiction would be admitted to the program.
If enacted, this law would not only make the streets more secure by helping to treat drug-related addictions, it could also save taxpayer money and decrease state spending by reducing prison terms.
Certainly, drug-related crimes are punishable by law, but all individuals are entitled to support and rehabilitative services, especially if such assistance could help break the downward spiral associated with substance abuse.
I urge our lawmakers to ensure quick passage of this bill and its enactment into law.
Every person struggling to overcome addiction deserves the chance to rebuild his or her life and break the cycle of destruction once and for all.