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Convicted of a drug crime? You may someday have better options.

Too often, we view people with addiction problems who commit drug crimes as throwaways, incapable of becoming productive members of society and not worthy of our concern. This is a common but short-sighted view that fails to consider that people have the capacity to change and often do.

New Jersey Woman Receives a Pardon from Gov. Christie

A Piscataway grandmother, Joyce Holman, was pardoned by New Jersey's Governor Christie on December 21 for crimes she committed years ago when she was addicted to drugs. But since 1995, Ms. Holman has committed herself to rebuilding her life, becoming a radiologist, an active member of her church and an involved grandmother. When the governor heard her story, he singled her out, issuing a pardon right before Christmas.

Gov. Christie's Approach to Drug Crime 

Ms. Holman's story reinforces the governor's approach to drug use and drug-related crime. He believes that rehabilitation and treatment, not prison, are the best ways to deal with most drug crimes. He has said many times that prison for addicted criminals helps no one - not the addicts nor the society that imprisons them. He has strongly supported expansion of the state' drug court program, which keeps people out of prison and encourages treatment.

A Big Stumbling Block to Staying Out of Prison: A Criminal Record

However, change is slow, despite his efforts. Many New Jersey residents have entered long-term recovery from addiction, but continue to be plagued by criminal records that may be decades-old. Former addicts who have been clean for many years find themselves unable to get jobs, receive student loans or participate fully in society because of their criminal records. The governor insists that the state can do more to help people like Ms. Holman, eliminating obstacles that sometimes leave them stuck in their old lives.

A Proposal to Help People Who Stay Clean Obrtain Jobs

The New Jersey Legislature is considering a proposal to help people like Ms. Holman so they would not have to wait for a governor's pardon. A Certificate of Recovery would certify to employers and others that an individual was in long-term recovery. It would be issued only five years after release, and prospective employers could not reject an applicant because of a criminal history. It would also help in other ways - getting a driver's license and voting being the most important.

Gov. Christie acknowledged that there are many people like Joyce Holman who deserve a second chance, but that story's like hers are why he believe that no life is disposable.

Source: NJ.Com, "Opinion: N.J. Certificate of Recovery would provide second chance after drug treatment, re-entry," by Daniel J. Meara, Jan. 17, 2013.

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