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Sweeney-Greenstein Bill Would Examine Reentry Practices

Study Commission Would Work To Produce Reforms To Aid Reentry of Former Offenders Back Into Society

TRENTON – Legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Linda Greenstein that would examine the practices and services that guide prisoner reentry in order to identify reforms to reduce recidivism and support their reintegration into society was approved by the Senate today. The legislation, SCR-144, would create the “Reentry Services Commission” to 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.

“By acting to reduce recidivism, we will make our communities safer and give former offenders the ability to reenter society and become productive members of their communities,” said Senator Sweeney (Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “For our justice system to succeed in achieving its goal of increased public safety, we must take steps to ensure that they are able to become successful and contributing members of their communities.”

“Years of research have revealed the key barriers that inhibit a former offender’s ability to be successful upon reentry and that the process of reentry should begin on day one of incarceration,” said Senator Greenstein (Mercer/Middlesex). “Once an individual reenters society, their likelihood of becoming a contributing member of their community is dependent on whether they can secure meaningful employment, find a place to live, and have the education and skills necessary to advance in life.”

The bill would have the newly-created commission examine the wide range of issues and services that impact reentry, including the psychological profile of the prisoner, housing, employment, education and training, addiction and substance abuse treatment, medical treatment and access to legal assistance. The panel would also evaluate the effective integration of corrections, parole, and the coordination with faith-based organizations.

The reliance on prison does not yield effective results, despite the over $1 billion poured into corrections in New Jersey every year, according to experts. Statewide, the three year rearrest rate remains over 50 percent.

The 14-member commission would be comprised of  representatives of a civil rights organization, reentry programs, organized labor, an organization committed to eradicating income inequality, a healthcare organization, the SAA/EVI, an attorney with expertise in prisoner reentry issues, the business community, an organization that provides mental health and substance use treatment, someone with expertise in neuroscience and behavioral modification, the law enforcement community, and a representative of the employment and training industry.  The appointments would be made by the Senate President and Speaker of the General Assembly.

The commission would be required to submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including legislative proposals, to the Governor and the Legislature within 18 months of its organizational meeting.  The commission would expire upon submission of the report.