A first step

Drug Treatment
With Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, Governor Chris Christie holds a press conference announcing a plan of action to help New Jerseyans dealing with drug addiction reclaim their lives at the Rescue Mission in Trenton, N.J. on Thursday, March 1, 2012. The Governor called for expanding New Jersey�s highly successful Drug Court program with mandatory treatment for non-violent, drug-addicted offenders throughout all 21 New Jersey counties. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

New Jersey will expand its well-regarded Drug Courts program with a $2.5 million initiative to send more people convicted of non-violent, drug-related offenses to rehab rather than jail.

Gov. Chris Christie made the announcement Thursday at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, reiterating his commitment to deal with addiction as a disease.

 “The underlying cause of many crimes in our society is in many cases drug-addiction or addiction-motivated behavior and for too long our criminal justice system has left it unaddressed," said the governor, whose initiative calls for mandating treatment for certain offenders statewide.

A former federal prosecutor, Christie also served on the board of an addiction treatment center in North Jersey. He notes that treatment for low-level offenders is both more humane and less expensive than incarceration; people who get treatment are far less likely to commit new crimes than those who are simply sent to a cell.

Treatment professionals and advocates are generally positive out Christie's initiative, which I wrote about in my February 12 column. Others wonder whether $2.5 million is enough.

But it's a good start.

A good first step.