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Benson, Mazzeo, Eustace & Wimberly Bill to Improve Community Notification When Sex Offenders are Placed into Halfway Houses Approved by Assembly
Assembly Also OK's Bill to Require Residential Community Release Programs File Financial Disclosure Documents with DOC
(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Vincent Mazzeo, Timothy Eustace and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to require community notification when a sex offender is placed in a halfway house and prohibit certain county inmates from halfway houses was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
The Assembly also voted to approve legislation requiring residential community release programs to file financial disclosure documents with the Department of Corrections.
The first bill would prohibit inmates or parolees who are required to register as sex offenders from being placed in residential community release programs before they have been tiered and the appropriate community notification has been given.
The bill would also prohibit placing a county inmate charged with a crime for which a conviction would require registration as a sex offender under Megan's Law in a residential community release program.
"The ease with which inmates have managed to escape from the state's halfway houses is chilling. More than 5,000 have escaped since 2005. Some were only caught after committing a crime while on the lam," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "We owe it to these communities to give them advance notice when an inmate who is required to register as a sex offender moves into their neighborhood."
"The bill would close a loophole in the current sex offender community notification system that allows inmates and state parolees who are sex offenders to be placed in halfway houses without community notification because they are still considered to be in the state correctional system," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "Clearly, this is a common sense bill that needs to get done for the safety of our public, especially our children."
"The current system is unacceptable," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "We need to close this loophole and make clear that sex offenders are required to adhere to all standards of the law. It's the right thing to do."
"Public safety is always a top priority, which means this common sense bill is needed," said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). "We just cannot allow inmates or parolees who are required to register as sex offenders from being placed in residential community release programs before they have been tiered and the appropriate community notification has been given."
The second bill (A-2404) sponsored by Benson, Eustace and Mazzeo requires each halfway house owner and operator to file an initial disclosure statement with the Commissioner of Corrections within 90 days following the effective date of the bill. Thereafter, annual disclosure statements are to be filed on or before April 30th of each year.
Under the provisions of the bill, financial disclosures are to include the names and business addresses of the officers, directors, trustees, managing or general partners and any person having a 10 percent or greater equity or beneficial interest in the service provider and a description of that person's interest in or occupation with the service provider.
The bills will be referred to the Senate.
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