To provide State leaders with greater insight into the operations of correctional facilities in New Jersey, the Assembly Women and Children committee advanced a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, William Spearman, Benjie Wimberly and Yvonne Lopez on Wednesday that would require the Commissioner of Corrections to issue an annual report with data about these facilities.
The measure is one of five aiming to promote more fairness, greater efficiency and better conditions at correctional facilities throughout the state after concerning reports of systemic abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.
Under the bill (A-5754), the Commissioner of Corrections would be required to issue an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature which includes information concerning each State correctional facility. The report would include data such as occupancy rates, average daily census, number of pregnant inmates, number of inmates with mental health or substance use disorders, and number of empty cells awaiting repairs.
Additional information in the report would include incidents of use of force in removing inmates, acts of violence committed by inmates and/or staff, recidivism rates of former inmates, resources and reentry services provided to inmates upon their release, the number of correctional police officers who took part in training courses, and more.
The data in the report would be prohibited from including any personally identifying information of inmates.
Upon the legislation advancing, Assembly sponsors Johnson (D-Bergen), Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester), Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Lopez (D-Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“The data collected and analyzed by the Department of Corrections in this annual report would give our state a better understanding of our correctional facilities and all they entail. Knowing more about use of force and violence taking place in these facilities, training and resources being provided to both staff and inmates, occupancy rates, and more would help us develop better policies and initiatives going forward.
“We would gain critical insight into the impact of our decisions on public safety, budgetary and social justice concerns while staff at facilities would learn how to improve their operations through the information provided in this report.
“This is an important step we must take to reform our prison system on behalf of inmates, staff and New Jersey residents as a whole.”
The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.