The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office offers Diversionary Programs such as the Drug Court Program, the Mental Health Diversionary Program, and the Veterans Diversionary Program to defendants who qualify. In addition, our office leads and participate sin additional programs such as the Law Enforcement Narcan Program and Tina’s House, and supports the efforts of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Child ID Program, Project Lifesaver, and the Child Safety Seat Program. To learn more, please scroll down.
Drug Court Program
The Drug Court Program allows individuals who are charged with non-violent criminal offenses to serve a sentence of intensive probation with drug and/or alcohol treatment (sometimes inpatient) rather than a jail term.
Drug Court seeks to reduce drug and/or alcohol addiction, as well as crime and recidivism, by providing intensive supervision, treatment and judicial oversight for its participants. The Drug Court Program is made up of a Judge, an Assistant Prosecutor, a Public Defender, a Coordinator, a Team Leader, and Probation Officers.
Probation Supervision works closely with treatment providers to strictly monitor each participant’s progress. The participant’s progress is reviewed by a judge during in-court sessions with adjustments made for both satisfactory and unsatisfactory behavior.
The State takes part in all aspects of the operation of Drug Court. An Assistant Prosecutor, after receiving extensive specialized training, is responsible for the initial screening of applicants for program eligibility.
Inquiries to apply for Drug Court must be made through a Defense Attorney.
Mental Health Diversionary Program
The Mental Health Diversionary Program (“MHDP”) was created to deal exclusively with defendants who suffer from mental illness. Our MHDP was created as the result of an award of grant funds for a Prosecutor-led Mental Health Program from the Office of the Attorney General. Prior to the creation of our MHDP, there were no previous internal programs in place or an established mechanism for referring cases to the mental health system prior to the disposition of a case.
One of our MHDP’s responsibilities is the administration of our Prosecutor-led Mental Health Pilot-Program. Our MHDP reviews cases referred to our Program with staff from selected consulting agency/ agencies to determine appropriateness for diversion. Referrals will be made to our Program from a variety of sources, including the jail, law enforcement, defense attorneys, the courts, family members, and mental health professionals. Weekly meetings with Program staff will be conducted to review referrals and determine status of same. In order for a defendant to be accepted into our Program, the defendant must be considered legally appropriate, clinically appropriate and case management appropriate.
The charges should be of a non-violent nature and there should be no extensive prior criminal history. The Program Director will review the defendant’s criminal history, current charges, case file and contact any victim(s) that may be involved. Some violent offenses may be considered on a case-by- case basis, taking into consideration the extent of the violence, any injury to the victim, the degree of the crime and the presence of a weapon. Additionally, sex and arson offenders (either past convictions or current charges) are not eligible for this Program.
If a defendant is determined to be eligible for the program, defense counsel must consent before the case can be referred for clinical evaluation. Once approval is received from defense counsel, a clinical evaluation is performed by the selected consultant. The evaluation takes into consideration whether the candidate is both clinically stable and appropriate for outpatient services. This psycho-social evaluation is performed by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The psycho-social evaluation will also attempt to identify any substance abuse history/issues. The clinician may then refer the defendant for a psychiatric evaluation if necessary.
If the defendant is eligible for the program, his/her case is then referred to the selected consulting agent/agency for evaluation to determine whether the defendant is case management appropriate, specifically whether the individual is appropriate for case management services in the community and whether this individual will cooperate with the program. A treatment plan will be prepared by the selected case management consultant with input from the selected clinician. This treatment plan would then be incorporated into the conditions of bail or sentencing.
If accepted into the Program, a defendant may be released from jail (if in custody) and participate in an intensive mental health (and often substance abuse) treatment program while their charges are pending. If a defendant is in the county jail, he/she is brought to court as soon as possible after acceptance for release with the appropriate conditions imposed.
An Order of Acceptance is prepared by members of our MHDP. The Order of Acceptance sets forth the case plan/conditions that were created to meet the defendant’s needs. The Order is signed by the defendant, acknowledging their understanding of the conditions. Formal acceptance into the program and a review of the defendant’s case plan is done on the record in the defendant’s presence. All parties, including the defendant, receive a copy of the Order so there are no subsequent issues regarding what is required of the defendant. If housing is an issue, the release conditions and disposition sheet that is sent to the jail must indicate that the defendant may be released to the selected consulting case management agency ONLY. Once the team locates housing, they will contact the jail to arrange release and transport of the defendant.
The defendant is required to appear before the designated Mental Health Judge once a month for a compliance review. Depending on the defendant’s level of compliance as well as other factors, the defendant may be diverted from state prison, county jail, and avoid conviction.
Veterans Diversionary Program
With an understanding of the many sacrifices made, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office developed a Veteran’s Diversionary Program in 2016 — one of the first of its kind in the State. The Veteran’s Diversionary Program offers veterans who face criminal charges an alternative to criminal prosecution. The program is specifically designed for veterans suffering from mental illnesses and post-traumatic stress disorder arising from their service. Upon voluntary admission into the Program, veterans are offered a case specific, treatment-focused plan which includes one-on-one mentoring by fellow veterans. These veteran mentors are volunteers that assist a fellow veteran in addressing the underlying problems associated with their present criminal charges.
In December 2017, Governor Christie signed legislation to create a statewide Veteran’s Diversion Program. The program links veterans with existing services so that they can get the necessary treatment, counseling and other services as an alternative to prosecution.
The Law Enforcement Narcan Initiative is one of the many efforts of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. Significant efforts have been directed toward the enforcement of existing drug laws, the education of our youth, and increasing the public’s awareness of the need for more rehabilitation facilities and changes to the existing drug laws.
On May 2, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed the Overdose Prevention Act (PL 2013 c.46). The purpose of the Overdose Prevention Act is to encourage individuals to seek immediate medical assistance when a drug overdose occurs and gives immunity from liability for certain prescribers and dispensers.
What is Narcan?
Narcan is designated for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose, as manifested by respiratory and/or central nervous system depression. It is intended for immediate administration as emergency therapy in settings where opioids may be present, and is not a substitute for emergency medical care.
Narcan is delivered much like a nasal spray. Once administered, Narcan works to stop the effects of an opiate overdose. It is important to note that although Narcan works effectively nearly immediately, it is imperative that an individual seek medical attention right away. Narcan can have significant side effects just like any other medication. A common misconception about Narcan is that it removes the opioids interaction entirely from the body. Opioids remain in the body after Narcan is administered. Often, the opioid drug’s life in an individual’s body is longer than the duration of Narcan. It is possible for an individual to have an overdose after Narcan is administered and subsequently wears off — even if no additional drugs were taken.
Working with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Health, Ocean County was used as the trial for the Law Enforcement Narcan Program. Since April 2014, the County’s law enforcement agencies have been equipped with Narcan Kits and paid for by our forfeiture funds.
“Tina’s House” incorporates the Ocean County Child Advocacy Center and is accredited by the National Children’s Alliance. This child friendly facility enhances the intervention, investigation and prosecution of cases through a multi-disciplinary team (“MDT”) approach. The MDT includes dedicated professionals from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Division of Child Protection and Permanency, St. Francis Counseling Center, and Dorothy B. Hersh Regional Child Protection Center who share common goals of preventing, detecting and prosecuting crimes against children. Community support is an integral part of the philosophy. “Tina’s House” is dedicated in the memory of Detective Tina Rambo.
Our Office supports the efforts and programs of many of our partners. Some of those include the following:
Project Lifesaver is a 501 (C)(3) community based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, and caregivers with a program designed to protect, and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering.
For more information on Ocean Counties Project Lifesaver Program please Click Here
or visit the organization page : https://projectlifesaver.org/
Through the cooperative efforts of the Ocean County Commission on Exploited and Missing Children and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office – Special Projects Unit, child ID cards are provided at no cost to the parents and/or caregivers of children 12 years of age and younger. The child ID card is a laminated, wallet-sized card containing a current photograph and fingerprints taken by the Special Projects Unit and current information given by the parent/caregiver of the child. The card can be kept with the parents and/or caregivers to use as an identification tool in case of an emergent situation involving the child.
For more information please Click Here
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with local municipal police departments. Their team of Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians provide parents and caregivers with a one-on-one tutorial demonstration including the proper installation and instructional use of your specific child safety seat(s). For more information, please Click Here