Jersey City – Participating in the legislative panel discussion at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation’s Annual Conference, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sandra Cunningham addressed the importance of reentry services as a key part of the broader criminal justice reforms in New Jersey.
“We have been pursuing a broad criminal justice reform effort in New Jersey, with Ban the Box, bail reform, expungement laws, and the creation of a Reentry Services Commission,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Reentry should be part of these reform efforts. If we want to give a second chance to those who were incarcerated, we have to provide them with a fair opportunity to succeed. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a barrier to success and destructive burden in their lives.”
“My late husband, Mayor and State Senator Glenn Cunningham, established the ‘Second Chance’ program in Jersey City,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson), the Legislature’s leading advocate for criminal justice reforms, including expungement legislation. “It’s been fulfilling to watch this initiative grow and expand throughout New Jersey. The New Jersey Reentry Corporation has provided critically needed services, including addiction treatment, housing referrals, job training and employment, legal services, and linkage to healthcare, which are all necessary to support persons returning from incarceration.”
“Senate President Sweeney and Senator Cunningham have been steadfast advocates for criminal justice reform and reentry,” said Governor Jim McGreevey, the Chairman of the NJRC. “We would not be here today, but for their commitment to continue the late Mayor Glenn Cunningham’s ‘Second Chance Program’ throughout our state.”
The NJRC provides critically needed services to court involved individuals to empower them to achieve healthy self-sufficiency, reducing recidivism and fostering safer communities. The recidivism rate for formerly-incarcerated individuals in New Jersey is 50 percent. The rate for NJRC clients is 20 percent.
The day-long conference – The Road to Salvation: From Addiction to Employment – put a focus on addiction treatment, healthcare and job training for those reentering society. The NJRC provides clients with substance abuse treatment, structured sober housing, job training, employment opportunities, linkage to legal services and healthcare, as well as spiritual mentoring.
The “Reentry Services Commission,” created through legislation cosponsored by Senator Sweeney, will review all aspects of prisoner reentry, including specific services necessary for successful reentry, current obstacles to prisoners receiving these services, and to propose solutions to improve the process. Former Governor McGreevey was appointed to the commission by Senator Sweeney.