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Assembly Clears Prieto, Jimenez & Garcia Bill to Help Improve Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Inmates

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia to help improve drug and alcohol treatments for inmates as part of their rehabilitation was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill requires the Division of Addiction Services to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails that meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that these programs are not denied licensure because they are located within a correctional setting.

Under current law, a person convicted under federal or state law of any felony or crime that involves the possession, use or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and who would otherwise be eligible for general public assistance benefits, is ineligible to receive the benefits unless the person has enrolled in or completed a licensed residential drug treatment program.

This bill (A-2295) would ensure that incarcerated individuals who participate in and complete drug treatment programs that meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure as residential programs are not denied eligibility for general public assistance benefits upon release.

“The only thing that sets these drug treatment programs apart from those that are licensed is that they are located within a correctional facility,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “If the purpose and scope of the program is the same and an individual has completed the program, then he or she should be able to receive these benefits, which can improve his or her chances of successfully reintegrating into society.”

“This is a matter of fairness. The only thing keeping these programs from benefitting from grants and other benefits, and the offenders they treat, from receiving public assistance upon release is their location,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “If they meet the licensure requirements, then we should extend them the same benefits we do to others, especially when those treated will be returning to our communities.”

“Giving people a second chance to succeed is vital if we’re going to have an effective corrections system, and part of accomplishing that goal is comprehensive drug treatment,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “We need to cut out the bureaucracy and make sure we’re doing all we can to help offenders overcome their problems and rebuild their lives. This bill is a step in the right direction.”

The bill would also make drug treatment programs in correctional facilities – which meet or substantially meet the licensing criteria – eligible for certain grants and additional benefits that now are only available to licensed residential drug treatment programs.

The Assembly unanimously approved the measure, 72-0.