Pilot would lay foundation for potential future statewide pre-entry program
Trenton – In an effort to uphold the fair and just execution of the criminal justice system, Senator Brian Stack and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji today introduced legislation to establish the “Pre-trial Partnership for Community Support and Services Pilot Program” in Monmouth and Union counties, with the potential to be extended statewide.
The pre-entry pilot program, set as a condition of release by the court, would allow eligible defendants to receive biopsychosocial assessments and responsive treatment services, including addiction and mental health services, prior to trial. Successful participation in the program may be taken into consideration to reduce a sentence or dismiss a prosecution.
“The primary goal of the criminal justice system is not to punish, but to rehabilitate. In order to achieve this goal, people must have access to support services throughout the duration of their time within the system, which begins at the time of arrest,” said Senator Brian Stack (D- Hudson), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This pre-entry program would offer defendants services and treatments, which will ultimately improve their court appearance rates, and enhance public safety.”
Under the bill, eligible defendants would receive support services provided by and coordinated through an approved pre-entry community support provider. To be approved, providers must be non-profit or for-profit organizations that have provided comprehensive reentry services within the state for at least two years prior to the implementation of the program.
“The Pretrial Partnership for Community Support and Services Pilot Program will allow us to help more people succeed during pretrial release by promising greater access to outcome-improving services. By piloting the effectiveness of this program in certain counties, we can develop a better understanding about the impact of these services,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), Deputy Speaker of the General Assembly. “Through our efforts, we are ensuring eligible defendants who have met the criteria for pretrial release can engage with community support providers to develop an individualized plan to address their unique needs. Ultimately, this will help improve court appearance rates while enhancing public safety.”
The legislation would direct providers to assist eligible defendants in developing and implementing pre-entry case plans. Each plan would consist of individualized recommendations for necessary support services ahead of the inmate’s trial. Under the bill, an approved support provider would provide pre-trial services free-of-charge, with no appropriation from the State.
“Quoting the pre-entry report, the decrease in pre-trial detention must be coupled with offering meaningful services to persons with outstanding needs. Providing such resources to persons who need them is an effective risk mitigation strategy that will have positive implications for the criminal justice system and the community at large,” said Former Governor Jim McGreevey, Chairman of the Board at New Jersey Reentry Corporation. “Access to pre-entry resources and services will serve as a critical opportunity for the judicial system to intervene and serve those in the criminal justice process.”
“Entering the criminal justice system is a difficult experience, which has the potential to cause or exacerbate addiction and mental illnesses. This legislation is a significant first step to ensuring that defendants are healthy and capable during their time in the system,” said Larry Lustberg, Director of Criminal Litigation at the Gibbons Law Firm in Newark, NJ. “This pre-entry program would do two good things: it would begin the reentry process earlier, when a person first comes into contact with the criminal justice system; and it would provide prosecutors and judges with additional information so that they can view defendants more holistically, and ultimately make well-informed decisions in the interest of both the individual defendant and the safety of the community.”
The measure would also establish the “Pre-trial Partnership for Community Support and Services Commission,” which would be responsible for identifying qualified pre-entry support organizations and making recommendations regarding the continuation of the pre-entry pilot program.