Bill Would Boost Christopher’s Program Throughout New Jersey; Program Named After Young Man Tortured and Killed by Gang Members
(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly Democrats Joe Cryan, Benjie Wimberly and Carmelo Garcia sponsored to allow judges sentencing a delinquent juvenile to include the option of ordering participation in instruction in preventing gang and youth violence was unanimously approved Monday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-666) would emulate Union County’s Christopher’s Program, which is a cooperative effort between the Superior Court, the Union County Probation Department and the Union County Human Services Department.
“This program works, so let’s expand it statewide to save taxpayer’s money, but most importantly, save lives,” said Cryan (D-Union). “We can either keep tossing young people into jail without guidance, or we can take sensible steps to rebuild lives and provide better futures. This is a smart idea, both fiscally and socially.”
“Under the program, juveniles receive interactive instruction in gang and youth violence prevention and in ways to avoid gang involvement,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Speakers with particular education, training, or expertise in gangs and youth violence prevention are scheduled during six-week sessions. These speakers are chosen by the probation department and are approved by the governing body.”
“This program gives teenagers who may have few positive outlets in their lives a pathway toward a healthier lifestyle,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “It gives them the tools and support they need to make better choices and the opportunity to turn their lives around.”
This bill, as well Christopher’s Program, is named in honor of Christopher Booker, who was brutally tortured by gang members and left to die alone in a vacant field in Newark.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate.