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McKnight, Speight, Lopez & Murphy Bill Preventing Inmates from Losing Parole-Related Credits for Minor Disciplinary Issues Passes Committee

Aiming to prevent inmates from losing important credits related to their parole eligibility for simple disciplinary infractions, the Assembly Women and Children Committee advanced a bill Wednesday to prohibit the forfeiture of commutation credits for less serious disciplinary issues.

Commutation credits are automatically awarded to inmates and are used to help determine an inmate’s parole eligibility date. These credits may be taken away from inmates by the Board of Managers of the correctional facility as a result of institutional misconduct.

Under the bill (A-5756), the board would not be permitted to declare a forfeiture of these credits if an inmate commits a ‘Category E’ level disciplinary infraction. These minor infractions might involve being late for work, feigning an illness, failing to keep a scheduled appointment with professional staff, or failing to follow safety or sanitation regulations – among other actions.

The legislation would also expand an inmate’s ability to regain commutation credits they lost, by allowing inmates to have up to 100 percent of their credits restored if they are free of any serious disciplinary charges during the two-year period following the initial incident.

The measure was advanced along with four other prison-reform bills inspired by reports of systemic issues at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.

Upon the legislation advancing, Assembly sponsors Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), Shanique Speight (D-Essex), Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex) and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) issued the following joint statement:

“Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – we can’t expect perfection from inmates any more than we can expect it from the general population. No prisoner deserves to lose out on their chance to re-enter society at an earlier date due to minor, non-violent disciplinary issues. These kinds of actions do not reflect on a prisoner’s suitability for parole. Prohibiting such a significant punishment in these situations is one way we can show compassion and understanding for the people in our prisons.”

The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.