(TRENTON) – Expanding eligibility for inmates to increase participation in reentry programs, legislation sponsored by Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) was advanced by an Assembly panel on Tuesday.
This measure is one of six legislative actions taken by the Assembly Judiciary Committee to address the concerns raised over the current culture and environment of New Jersey’s only women’s prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. The 6-bill package aims to improve transparency and training for corrections officers, accountability, and access to reentry programs for inmates to curb recidivism.
The bill (A-4681) would expand eligibility for certain inmates to participate in a residential community release program (RCRP) and modifies Department of Corrections reporting requirements concerning the capacity of these programs.
The sponsors issued the following joint statement on the bill:
“Reentry programs and greater access for inmates soon to be released is vital to placing these individuals back on track and acclimated to society. By ensuring more eligible inmates, who have met all of their obligations, have access to reentry programs and the necessary resources, we can help to relieve an overburdened system by reducing the number of people housed in New Jersey prisons.”
Under the bill, an inmate who is otherwise eligible under current law is eligible to participate in an RCRP if the inmate is scheduled to be released in less than 30 months, and the commissioner or a designee determines that the inmate’s participation in a residential community program is appropriate; or the inmate is scheduled to be released in greater than 12 months but less than 30 months and the commissioner or a designee determines that the inmate’s participation in a substance use disorder treatment program is appropriate.
The bill would also require the commissioner to provide a monthly certification to the Legislature that all available RCRP beds in the State are filled to contract capacity with eligible State inmates. Currently, this certification is provided only to the Commissioner of Corrections.
The six bills reviewed by the Assembly Judiciary panel are the first of a two-part legislative package addressing the concerns at Edna Mahan. The Assembly Women and Children Committee will convene in June to review additional measures concerning Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.