Friday, January 15, 2010


To Stop the Revolving Door of Recidivism, Strengthen Families and Cut Costs to Taxpayers

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Legislature passed a historic package of bills – with broad bipartisan support – that will stop the revolving door of recidivism, strengthen families and cut costs to taxpayers by preparing incarcerated individuals for work and removing barriers to work after they are released from prison. The bills have been sent to Governor Corzine for his signature into law.

The sponsor of the three bills (A4197/S1347, A4202/S11, and A4201/S502), Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), partnered with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and its Second Chance Campaign of New Jersey to convene a year-long series of ‘Counting the Costs’ public hearings to create the legislation, which The New York Times called, “a model for the rest of the nation.” The Institute has been the state leader on these issues since 2002, when it convened the New Jersey Reentry Roundtable, which provided policymakers and practitioners with a comprehensive blueprint of reforms designed to enhance public safety and save taxpayer dollars.

“After a certain point, the public can’t sustain throwing money at a problem and failing all the while talking about being tough on crime,” says Cornell William Brooks, Executive Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “The best way to be tough on crime is to reduce it – this historic legislation is tough on crime because it will do just that: reduce it. We do not have lives or tax dollars to waste. Equipping ex-offenders to become responsible citizens, productive workers, and taxpayers means not only safety but savings.”

“Those who violate our laws will still serve their time – that will not change under these new laws,” says Assembly Majority Leader Watson Coleman. “But the way they serve prison time will change as they will be prepared to reenter society as productive citizens, which will save lives and taxpayer dollars.” Highlights of the bill provisions include:

Strengthening Women and Families Act (A4197/S1347)

• Lifts the ban on food stamps and TANF benefits for individuals with felony drug convictions who have dependent children, which will leverage federal funding, saving state dollars, to support families as well as provide federal dollars to support treatment to keep addicts off drugs, away from crime, and from returning to prison.

• Establishes a commission to strengthen bonds between incarcerated parents and their children.

• Encourages incarcerated individuals to be placed in facilities as close as possible to family.

Education and Rehabilitation Act (A4202/S11)

• Requires the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) to ensure that incarcerated individuals attain the 12th-grade education proficiency level.

• Reviews vocational programs in order to meet demand job skills and standards.

• Places all incarcerated individuals with less than two years before release in community corrections.

Reduction of Recidivism Act (A4201/S502)

• Provides individuals leaving prison with written notification of fines, outstanding warrants, voting rights, and expungement options; a government-issued ID card; birth certificate; a list of prison programs participated in; medical records; Social Security card; medication; a one-day bus or rail pass; and a rap sheet.

• Eliminates the post-release Medicaid enrollment gap.

• Requires the NJDOC to report to the Governor and Legislature on the results of recidivism-reducing measures.

Read News Stories:

By Chris Megerian/Statehouse Bureau
January 11, 2010, 6:44PM

TRENTON -- Lawmakers approved today three bills aimed at reducing the number of former inmates returning to prison. The legislation (A4202 and A4197) would allow ex-offenders to receive welfare benefits and require most inmates to receive job training and high school educations while behind bars. The third bill (A4201) would ensure inmates receive copies of personal documents like birth certificates upon release.


By Sharon Adarlo/The Star-Ledger
January 10, 2010, 5:05PM

TRENTON -- Arthur Townes robbed people to feed his drug habit and landed in prison as a result. While incarcerated, he received counseling and job training that helped him turn his life around. Now Townes and other ex-inmates are encouraging the state Legislature to approve a package of bills tomorrow that would create and expand similar counseling and job training programs to help others and reduce the recidivism rate. See Arthur Townes in Voices of Hope Productions Video on reentry.