GOP presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, “One of the barriers to getting out of poverty” is for states to properly treat drug addiction, rather than locking up addicts.
Christie said of New Jersey law:
If you’re a first time nonviolent, non dealing drug offender, you don’t go to prison anymore,” Christie said of New Jersey law. “You go to mandatory in-patient drug treatment because this is a disease and if we continue to treat it as a way that if you’re not a violent person, you’re not dealing this poison in our neighborhoods and making a profit off of it, you’re an addict.
If we are putting those people in jail and then we’re not giving them treatment and then we release them from jail and we wonder why they continue to go back to crime, don’t get a job, don’t support their families, don’t play a role in raising their children. Of course they don’t, because they’re suffering from a disease that doesn’t permit them to do any of that.
“I believe the federal government has to change its policies toward this,” Christie continued.
It has not worked. It was a noble try. It has been 30 years or so of a war on drugs that has been focused on incarceration and enforcement. There are always going to be jail cells when I’m president for folks that are dealing drugs and committing violent acts. There will always be jail cells for them. But we need to get some of the people who are just addicts and diseased out of those jail cells [and] give them treatment because you can’t get to work if you can’t get out of bed in the morning. You can’t get to work if you’re high on heroine or cocaine. No one is going to hire you.
“Our [policies] in the federal government are doing nothing to deal with the real problem that we have, which is people can be treated,” he stressed. “This is a disease. We can make people better and when we do that we … rebuild families.”
Christie was speaking about poverty and expanding opportunity at The Jack Kemp Foundation presidential candidate forum in South Carolina on Saturday. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) moderated the event.