WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has become the latest leader to condemn the now 40-year-old war on drugs.
“The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure,” Christie said Monday during a speech at The Brookings Institution. “We’re warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment.”
Christie stressed the merits of legislation recently passed by New Jersey state lawmakers that institutes a year of mandatory treatment for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders instead of jail time. The mandatory treatment program, slated to be put in place in at least three counties during its first year, will eventually expand statewide over the next five years.
Christie, one of the few Republican lawmakers to actively speak out against the effects of America’s drug war policies, sought to put a conservative moral spin on his position.
“If you’re pro-life, as I am, you can’t be pro-life just in the womb,” he said. “Every life is precious and every one of God’s creatures can be redeemed, but they won’t if we ignore them.”
Perhaps to blunt conservative criticism of the cost of such a program to the state, Christie argued in favor of the economics of drug treatment over incarceration.
“It costs us $49,000 a year to warehouse a prisoner in New Jersey state prisons last year,” Christie said. “A full year of inpatient drug treatment costs 24,000 a year.”
Christie’s strong stance on the war on drugs and drug treatment contrasts sharply with the less-defined series of positions on drug policy taken by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A recent overview of Romney’s past statements on drugs, undertaken by The Atlantic, concluded that the former Massachusetts governor’s position has been difficult to pin down.