(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (both D-Bergen/Hudson) to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails in order to make certain offenders eligible for public assistance upon release was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.
Under current law, a person convicted under federal or state law of any felony or crime which has an element of 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 which 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. “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. “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.”
The bill requires the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails which meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure. The purpose of the bill is to ensure these programs are not denied licensure because they are located within a correctional setting.
In addition, the bill would make drug treatment programs in correctional facilities – which meet or substantially meet the licensing criteria – eligible for certain grants and additional benefits that right now are only available to licensed residential drug treatment programs.
The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.