With New Jersey’s prison population declining as a result of initiatives to reduce recidivism and the need for imprisonment, Democrat-sponsored legislation would require the Department of Corrections to seek out proposals from organizations interested in participating in a project to improve the efficiency of correctional facilities.
The bill was one of five dealing with prison reform that was passed by the full Assembly on Monday. In response to frequent issues at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, the measures aim to enhance ongoing efforts to improve the criminal justice system by ensuring accuracy, efficiency and fairness.
The legislation (A-5753) requires the Commissioner of Corrections to develop and issue a request for proposal (RFP) from applicants who wish to participate in a project where they would help evaluate and make recommendations to improve aspects of New Jersey’s correctional facilities.
Those recommendations would be related to the closure and consolidation of facilities; the repair of existing infrastructure and cost-effective alternatives; the reduction and/or reassignment of facility staff; changes in the provision of staff benefits; and the adoption of energy-efficient and other efficiency-related measures to reduce operational costs.
Under the bill, applicants would be required to submit information such as the purpose of their participation, their budget, and a description of their experience and potential methodologies/resources. Preference would be given to non-profit applicants with experience in the development of prison downsizing strategies.
The legislation mandates that the Commissioner is to oversee, coordinate and assist the project, then provide the results of the establishment of the project.
Upon the bill passing by a vote of 68-4-0, Assembly sponsors Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson), Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson), Pedro Mejia (D-Bergen, Hudson) and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) issued the following joint statement:
“As the prison population of our state steadily declines due to our efforts to rehabilitate offenders and find alternatives to imprisonment, we must consider ways in which we can improve the efficiency of our correctional facilities. Consolidating facilities, utilizing energy-efficient power sources, and reassigning staff are just some of the ways we may be able to improve our prisons. An evaluation of our existing prison system and consideration of various cost-effective strategies will help us implement changes that will save taxpayer money and ensure a fairer, more efficient system in the long-run.”
The legislation now heads to the Senate.