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Turner Measure To Increase Alternatives To Jail For Non-Violent Offenders Passes Both Houses

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would expand opportunities for non-violent offenders to be placed in the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP), a cost-saving alternative to prison, was approved by both the Senate and the Assembly today.

“ISP has proven itself to be a cost-effective alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders over the past 25 years,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and a leading advocate in the Senate for alternatives to prison. “At a time in which we are looking to reduce the cost of government at all levels, we should be looking to programs like ISP to use taxpayer dollars more effectively.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S-1946, would expand 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.

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.

“This is the direction we need to go in if we are going to reduce the number of people in our prisons and the costs that come with incarcerating them. Rather than sitting in jail, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year, these individuals now have steady jobs and are making amends to the community for the crimes they committed. This is certainly behavior we need to encourage,” explained Senator Turner.

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

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 22-17 and the Assembly by a vote of 59-19 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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