(TRENTON) – With the goal to place emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment for people convicted of a crime, Assembly Democrats John Armato, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji sponsor a bill to allow people who owe court-imposed fines to earn credits to reduce their financial obligations. The legislation was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday, 72-0.
Under the bill (A-275), a person convicted of a crime or offense, placed in a diversion program, or an adjudicated delinquent would be allowed to serve a term of probation or participate in a diversionary program to earn “transformative credit” against the amount owed by participating in treatment programs, educational or vocational services, or service to the community. The credits could be used to reduce their fines.
“When someone enters the corrections system, they often find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of punitive measures that hold them back from reforming their lives,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “Our focus should be on rehabilitation and providing people the tools they need to lead healthy lives and engage in their communities.”
“A court-ordered fine will not help a person with a conviction land a job, find housing or seek treatment for substance abuse. It will only serve as another roadblock in their path to a better life,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Community enrichment and treatment programs address issues at the heart of what motivates people to break the law and offer guidance on how to move forward. This rehabilitative approach aims to reduce rates of recidivism and create opportunities for at-risk populations.”
“Over two-thirds of formerly incarcerated people in the U.S. will end up back in the system for another offense. The recidivism rate is far lower in New Jersey at 31 percent, and that’s largely because our state has invested in rehabilitative reentry programs,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This bill reinforces our commitment to reducing barriers for formerly incarcerated people as they begin the next chapter of their lives.”
The legislation is based on recommendations from the Report of the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines, and Fees issued in 2018.
The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration