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Cunningham, Pou Introduce Bill Package to Reform Criminal Sentencing

Legislation would remove mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses
Trenton – A major criminal justice reform package, which would alter criminal sentencing norms and remove mandatory minimums, has been introduced to the Senate. The legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator Nellie Pou is based on recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission.
“Meaningful sentencing reform is long overdue. If we are ever going to reverse the harmful effects of mass incarceration we must move away from doling out lengthy sentences for minor offenses and this legislation is the first step towards realizing that goal,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “By removing mandatory minimums on non-violent offenses we can return the discretionary power back to our judges and allow them to issue sentences based on what is truly in the best interest of the individual and our society.”
“At a time when men, women and children have flooded the streets, not only in America but across the globe, to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, the need for structural change to the criminal justice system could not be clearer,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic). “The sentencing reforms that we have introduced are just a small piece of that greater effort to build a safer, fairer and more just New Jersey.”
The Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission was created in 2009 by the New Jersey Legislature to conduct a thorough review of the state’s criminal sentencing provisions and consider recommendations to reform the laws governing the criminal justice system. Senator Cunningham was a member of the commission which was chaired by former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz.
  • S.2586 – The bill, sponsored by Senator Cunningham, would implement sentencing recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission to eliminate mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and nonviolent property crimes. It would also reduce mandatory minimum sentences for second-degree robbery and burglary. 
  • S.2593 – The bill, sponsored by Senator Cunningham, would authorize the Administrative Office of the Courts to retroactively rescind the mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility for inmates who committed nonviolent drug offenses or nonviolent property crimes.
  • S.2594 – The bill, sponsored by Senator Cunningham, would establish a compassionate release program for inmates suffering from a grave medical condition, terminal illness or permanent physical incapacity. 
  • S.2595 – The bill, sponsored by Senator Cunningham, would require a study be performed to determine the cost savings of the compassionate release program and the elimination of mandatory minimums. Under the bill, any cost savings would go towards the “Corrections Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention Fund” which would support recidivism reduction programs.
  • S.2592 – The bill, sponsored by Senator Pou, would provide the court with discretion to consider the age of a youthful defendant as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
  • S.2591 –  The bill, sponsored by Senator Pou, would require the Department of Corrections Commissioner to issue a Certificate of Eligibility for Resentencing to any inmate who committed a crime as a juvenile and was tried as an adult, received an aggregate sentence of incarceration of 30 years or more, has served at least 20 years of that sentence and has not been resentenced or previously sought relief under the bill.