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Lesniak ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Governor’s Focus On Nonviolent Offenders

Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, the Chairman of the Economic Growth Committee, speaks at a news conference at the Statehouse announcing the introduction of legislation sponsored by himself and Senator Barbara Buono which would begin to address the foreclosure and affordable housing crises facing New Jersey. The bill, S-1566, would establish a central agency under the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) to use funds from the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund to purchase and deed-restrict foreclosed properties to be used as affordable housing. The bill would also create incentives for municipalities to transition foreclosed properties to affordable housing, giving them a 2-to-1 match against their affordable housing obligation for affordable units created from foreclosed properties. Senator Lesniak said the bill could result in 10,000 new affordable units and 10,000 less unoccupied, boarded-up properties. Also pictured is Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green.

Says First Priority Should Be Folks Who Want to Overcome Addiction

TRENTON – State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, the prime sponsor of a legislative package designed to reduce criminal recidivism and create a pathway to recovery and rehabilitation for drug-addicted, nonviolent offenders, issued the following statement today in response to the Governor’s proposal to create mandatory drug court for all nonviolent drug offenders:

“While I think the Governor’s goals in expanding the drug court program are laudable, we have to make sure they’re also achievable.

“I’ve introduced legislation, S-881, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would expand drug court jurisdiction and provide more resources to increase the number of participants in the drug court program. Right now, half of the eligible drug court participants decline admission into the program. By opening the floodgates for all drug-court-eligible nonviolent offenders – as the Governor has proposed – we run the risk of crowding out folks who want to be there, and we risk the possibility of diminishing the effectiveness of drug recovery programs, where the group dynamic may suffer as a result of including people who are serious about recovery, and people who are only there because they’re forced to be there.

“I’m also concerned that the Governor’s talk on helping nonviolent offenders recover from addiction doesn’t always match his actions. I’ve sponsored a non-binding resolution, along with Senator Nick Scutari, to urge the Governor to grant clemency to John Ray Wilson, a person suffering from multiple sclerosis who grew marijuana in his backyard to treat his disease – and who was subsequently found guilty of drug manufacturing, a charge typically reserved for large-scale operations looking to sell their product. The Governor’s announcement today of his expansion of the drug court program comes at the heels of his declaration during a radio interview that John Ray Wilson should go to jail and stay there.

“I remain hopeful that the Governor is serious about his concern for nonviolent drug offenders who are being failed by the current system. I hope to work with him to advance realistic proposals which will result in more nonviolent offenders recovering from their addictions and becoming productive members of society.”

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