In Wednesday’s Star-Ledger, Peter G. Verniero, a former state Supreme Court justice and attorney general, had an op-ed entitled “Over years, drug court has proven its worth”. The full op-ed is worth reading. We agree with his analysis that drug courts have worked and believe as he does that innovation needs to occur to find other areas for innovation. obviously our first choice would be the Homeless Court being implemented in Hudson County.
The following is the final three paragraph of the op-ed which summarize his view of the “need to surrender old notions” so we can avoid overcrowding in our jails. One of the largest populations in the jails are the homeless. Hopefully. his call for surrendering old notions will ensure not only the success of the Hudson County Homeless Court but its expansion throughout the state. In addition, the expansion of permanent, affordable and supportive housing needs to be part of the solution.
Beyond drug courts, we should review other sentencing provisions of the criminal code to determine what works and what really doesn’t.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and other policy thinkers propose new strategies in dealing with crime, especially drug-related offensives. They understand we need to think outside the box to break the cycle of crime that threatens our communities and consigns too many youth to a state of constant despair. With Gov. Jon Corzine’s backing, Attorney General Anne Milgram also is considering reforms.
We can help. One way is for us to be willing to experiment with new ideas, much like we tried drug courts 10 years ago. We need to surrender old notions about what it means to be tough on crime and reorder our fiscal priorities to better address the root causes of crime. Otherwise, we will witness an ever-swelling population of inmates and a prison gate that is nothing but a revolving door.