Healthy New Jersey

Office of the Public Defender

Recovery Court Unit

Recovery Courts grew out of the realization at the grassroots level by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others that the old approach of a seemingly intractable cycle of incarceration followed by more incarceration was not producing a solution to drug-related criminal behavior and instead was just endlessly filling jail and prison cells. The enactment of New Jersey's "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1986," which resulted in a major increase in drug-related arrests and state prison sentences here, eventually sparked a realization that an alternative innovative approach was needed.  That approach is "Recovery Court."

Recovery Court is a probation sentence with significant conditions.  The mission of the New Jersey Statewide Recovery Court is to stop the abuse of drugs and related criminal activity.  Recovery Courts work because judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers and substance abuse experts all work together cooperatively to construct and enforce a supportive atmosphere to encourage and monitor a participant's recovery.  Following an intensive screening process, participants with a substance use disorder enter a strictly-monitored treatment program incorporated into a probationary term.  This proactive approach consists of treatment, counseling and other resources intended to assist participants with issues such as job training, education and health care. Recovery Courts have been very successful in generating substantial cost savings by replacing costly incarceration with less expensive treatment programs.  Individuals who successfully complete Recovery Court are eligible to have their complete criminal record expunged, thus giving them the opportunity to start their lives anew, with a clean slate.  Research has shown that expungements — which lead to better jobs and housing, essential components of recovery — help individuals stay drug- and crime-free.

The State of New Jersey has built one of the most successful and respected Recovery Court programs in the country, with Courts located in all 21 counties from Sussex to Cape May.  The NJOPD, an early advocate of Recovery Courts along with the Judiciary and the Attorney General's Office, works to ensure that the program continues as an effective alternative to traditional criminal courts.  Historically, the NJOPD has represented approximately 90% of all New Jersey Recovery Court participants.  The NJOPD has expanded its representation to include the expungement process for current graduates.

The current Director of the NJOPD's Statewide Recovery Court Unit is Deputy Public Defender Stephen Hunter.  For more information, contact Mr. Hunter at 609-633-8659 or consult the New Jersey Recovery Court website,

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