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Sweeney Statement on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney issued the following statement in response to the action taken by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug crimes:

“I welcome the Attorney General’s action as a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it falls far short of the goal of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for all nonviolent offenses. The directive covers only six offenses, while the reform legislation introduced today by Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator Nick Scutari encompasses 29 nonviolent crimes. The AG’s action also comes up short because it could be overturned by a future AG.

“Real reform means eliminating the judicial mandate and returning the sentencing decisions to judges who should have the ability to determine the appropriate sentence. Eliminating mandatory minimums does not mean eliminating imprisonment as a punishment, but it does mean eliminating rigid penalties that don’t match the crimes. True justice is served when an individual’s punishment matches the circumstances of the crime, and that is best determined by judges.

“New Jersey is one of only two states that doesn’t trust the judiciary to determine fair sentences for official misconduct charges. It is time to include that reform along with all other nonviolent offenses.

“We have made a lot of progress in achieving criminal justice reforms in New Jersey to do away with the bias that has plagued the justice system for too long. We should continue our efforts to bring meaningful reforms by enacting the legislation that eliminates all mandatory minimums sentences.”