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Van Drew, Cruz-Perez Bill Creating Mentor Program for Veterans In Criminal Justice System Now Law

Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic, speaks on the floor of the State Senate regarding the FY 2011 Budget.

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew and Nilsa Cruz-Perez to create a program designed to assist and mentor veterans who enter the criminal justice system is now law.

“Reentry into civilian life can be difficult for service men and women, who can suffer both physical and emotional scars related to their service,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic). “When veterans end up in the criminal justice system, it is our responsibility to provide support and guidance, and to attempt to address the underlying issues that may have led them there. Our veterans have sacrificed so much; this is about supporting them in their time of need.”

“The men and women who serve in our Armed Forces often face unique challenges in readapting to civilian life, and a lack of housing or employment can exacerbate the situation. Providing support services and mentorship for those who have had a run-in with the law is the right thing to do to help them get on the right track and improve their chances for success,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden). “It’s even more important that this mentorship come from individuals who understand these issues firsthand.”

The law (S2972) will require the Adjutant General of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to assist and mentor veterans who enter the criminal justice system, while the case is pending and afterward, to ensure that the veteran receives assistance and mentoring to resolve the underlying problems that led the veteran into the criminal justice system.

The law specifies that the mentoring and assistance program would include, but not be limited to:

a)     offering support and guidance;

b)    securing housing, employment linkages and job training;

c)     education, transportation, disability compensation claims;

d)    discharge status and health care; and

e)     other linkages available at the local, State and federal level that can ease the challenge of reentry into civilian life.

The Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 74-0-0. The Senate approved it by a vote of 38-0. The governor signed it into law today. It takes effect in 60 days.