JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. Jim McGreevey discussed ideas to help inmates re-enter society at a conference at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City on Thursday.
As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, Christie explained why he prefers helping drug offenders through treatment.
“First of all, because incarceration’s failed,” said Gov. Christie. “While the war on drugs was started with the best of intentions, I think we now have 30-plus years of proof to show us that it’s not being effective.”
He said there’s been a track record of jailing people with addiction, only to let them out as addicts who will likely commit another crime.
“In order to feed their addiction, it makes no sense,” said the governor.
Christie said too many drug offenders are clogging the system and crowding jails.
“Who are there because they couldn’t make $2,500 in bail. And they’re not violent,” the governor said.
Christie said the state is phasing in a program to send non-violent drug-addicted first-time offenders to rehab instead of jail.
“No life is disposable,” said the governor.
The state legislature is working on a measure that would allow those offenders to be released until trial.
As far as violent offenders, Christie said “those people need to be incarcerated.”
He said he’d like to see those offenders held without bail.
“In New Jersey, we don’t have the ability to do that prior to trial,” Christie said.
He said he’s for a bill now in the state assembly that would make those changes. Christie said he’s hoping to sign the measure into law by June.
The Republican governor and Democratic former governor agree that jobs and drug treatment are keys to reducing recidivism and cutting incarceration costs.
Christie spearheaded a drug court program that provides mandatory treatment for first-time drug offenders.
McGreevey oversees a re-entry program for Hudson County jail inmates.
Former NBA player Jayson Williams speaking at the conference said trying to re-enter society after serving time for shooting a limousine driver was more difficult than being in prison.
Williams was an all-star professional basketball player who later achieved notoriety for mishandling a shotgun while showing it to friends inside his New Jersey home, killing the driver he’d hired for the night.
The 46-year-old says people who paid a lot of money to watch him play did not want him living next to them after he was released in 2012.
He has now devoted his life to helping others.
Also at the conference, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said too many inmates leave prison addicted to drugs, with little education and few opportunities at work.
Fishman is on a national re-entry task force.
The federal prosecutor is leading an investigation into politically motivated traffic jams orchestrated by Christie’s aides.
Christie and Fishman avoided each other at the event.
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