New Brunswick – Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sandra Cunningham today participated in a forum on ways to improve reentry practices, joining with former Governor Jim McGreevey, as well as religious and community leaders to focus on the report by the New Jersey Reentry Services Commission and its recommendations to improve opportunities for the successful transition of former prisoners into society.
Senator Sweeney, who sponsored the legislation creating the commission, and Senator Cunningham, who served on the panel, have endorsed the report’s recommendations. Senator Cunningham, who also supports the report’s findings, serves as co-chair of the commission.
“The successful reentry of former offenders is a proven way of reducing recidivism and improving their opportunities to be successful members of society,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We know that reentry can succeed, but we need to remove the barriers and provide the services that will allow people to make a success of their lives. Everyone deserves a second chance and we need to give them fair opportunities to succeed.”
“While the state has taken significant strides in creating an environment conducive to the rehabilitation of individuals being released from prison, there continue to be significant barriers to successful reentry in healthcare, addiction, employment, legal services, and housing,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “This report provides a blueprint for change that will help people succeed.”
The 14-member commission released a report outlining recommendations to improve the delivery of reentry services to enhance the ability of former offenders to maintain sobriety, healthy living and employment, all keys to successful reentry. The 102-page report includes 100 action steps, including everything from health care to addiction treatment, housing, workforce training and the legal issues that many formerly incarcerated people face.
Senator Sweeney and Senator Cunningham also spoke about social justice reforms already enacted by the Legislature, including landmark bail reform, “Ban the Box,” expungement reforms, limits on solitary confinement, and the law requiring independent prosecutors for police-involved fatalities.
And, they addressed additional actions Senator Sweeney wants the Legislature to pursue, including more expansive expungement reforms, juvenile justice reforms, voting rights for those on parole or probation and marijuana legalization.
The Democratic senators also referred to the recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, established by the Legislature, as “significant steps forward” in delivering reforms to the justice system.
“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.”
(Photo 1 Attached: Senate President Steve Sweeney with the NJ Coalition of Latino Pastors and Ministers)
(Photo 2 Attached: A filled room at the Abundant Life Church for the Reentry Commission Roundtable)