JOHNSON & COUTINHO BILL TO EXAMINE & IMPROVE JUVENILE JUSTICE TRANSFERS TO IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY & SAVE MONEY APPROVED BY ASSEMBLY

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Gordon Johnson and Albert Coutinho to develop recommendations to reform the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system to improve public safety and save money has been approved by the Assembly.

“Under current state law and upon the motion of the prosecutor, a judge is required to transfer a juvenile to adult court if the juvenile is 14 years of age or older and there is probable cause to believe the juvenile committed certain crimes and offenses,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “But studies have shown transferring juveniles to the adult criminal justice system increases risks for the juveniles without increasing public safety. We need to find a better way that helps improve lives and more effectively spends taxpayer money.”

“We need a smarter approach that both ensures rehabilitation and protects public safety,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “We have room for significant improvement for the betterment of these juveniles and taxpayers, and this task force will find ways to make that happen.”

The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee chaired by Johnson. Under the bill (A-973):

· The task force is to study, evaluate and develop recommendations concerning the transfer of juveniles from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system.

· The 11-member task force would include the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or a designee who may be a judge or retired judge of the Superior Court with experience in juvenile delinquency matters; the Administrative Director of the Office of the Courts or a designee; the Attorney General or a designee; the President of New Jersey County Prosecutors Association or a designee; the Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission or a designee; the New Jersey Public Defender or a designee; and the Commissioner of Corrections or a designee; and

· Four public members, two of whom are to be appointed by the President of the Senate and who may not be of the same political party, and two of whom are to be appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and who may not be of the same political party.

· The public members should have, by experience or training, demonstrated expertise in juvenile justice, law enforcement, crime prevention, victim advocacy or social sciences. · The task force is to organize as soon as practicable following the appointment of its members and select a chairperson and vice-chairperson from among the members. The chairperson is to appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the task force.

·The task force is required to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor, and to the Legislature, along with any legislative bills that it desires to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, no later than 12 months after its organizational meeting.

· Upon submission of the report, the task force would expire.

The bill was approved 63-13-2 and has been referred to the Senate for more consideration.

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