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Turner-Cunningham Bill To Increase Alternatives To Jail For Non-Violent Offenders Signed Into Law

TRENTON � A measure sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Sandra Bolden Cunningham that will expand opportunities for non-violent offenders to be placed in the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP), a cost-saving alternative to prison, was signed into law by Governor Jon S. Corzine today.

�We need to move our model of criminal justice past the single-minded goal of locking up as many criminals as possible,� said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and a leading advocate in the Senate for alternatives to prison. �For crimes which are violent or affect many people, incarceration makes sense because it punishes while protecting the public. But for non-violent offenders, we need to strive towards programs like ISP, which focus on restitution and treatment in order to prevent future crimes.�

The new law, formerly bill S-1946, expands the number of individuals who are eligible to participate in ISP by allowing those who had previously completed ISP to enter the program a second time following the commission of a subsequent offense. Under current law, individuals are only allowed to participate in ISP a single time.

�Over the past 25 years, ISP has been shown to be a low-cost way to give non-violent offenders a chance to reduce their jail sentences while giving back to the community,� explained Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. �Rather than costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars while sitting in jail, individuals participating in ISP must have steady jobs or be in school. In the end, these people are far less likely to return to a life of crime.�

According to the ISP�s website, applicants must have served at least 60 days of their sentence in prison. Applicants then must provide a plan for participation in the community once they enter the program, including work or study objectives. A three-member screening board then reviews the application and hears input from those involved with the individual�s offense before making a decision.

Senator Cunningham also noted that participants in ISP are three quarters less likely to become repeat offenders (11.4% recidivism rate), according to the New Jersey Judiciary.

Additionally, Senator Turner said that the State is expected to save $4 million through 2011 by reducing the prison population by 200 people. Of that amount, $3 million will be transferred to the program for enhanced monitoring, treatment and rehabilitation.

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