The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Reed Gusciora and Raj Mukherji that would provide services to help reintegrate prisoners into the community after they have served their full sentences.
The bill (A-3523) would require the Division of Parole to offer the same post-release services to defendants who have served the maximum term of incarceration that are provided to defendants who are released on parole.
“Unlike parolees who receive intense supervision and guidance, maxed-out inmates are essentially on their own the minute the door closes behind them,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This leads to high rates of recidivism and little chance of rebuilding their lives. In order to truly end this cycle, we need to boost services to help them reintegrate into society.”
“Recidivism rates are so high because of loopholes like this in our criminal justice system,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Many maxed-out inmates have been incarcerated for quite some time, and if they haven’t undergone any rehabilitation program on the inside, they may have no idea how to begin to rebuild their lives when they get out.”
Under current law, defendants incarcerated in a state correctional facility who do not participate in their own rehabilitation while incarcerated, or who have been denied release under the regular parole process, effectively serve the maximum sentence of imprisonment. These so-called “max-outs” subsequently are released directly into the community without any supervision or transitional services.
“Studies have shown that parolees are less prone to recidivism than max-outs because of the supervision they receive after release,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Allowing these individuals access to parole services will facilitate their successful re-entry into the community.”
The sponsors noted that twice as many defendants max-out as are released on parole. Defendants who max-out are not provided services that are available to parolees, such as access to residential community release programs, known as halfway houses, drug treatment programs, residential programs, community resource centers, emergency housing placement and other basic support services.
Under the bill, these services would be provided upon the request of the defendant. The bill directs the Commissioner of Corrections to advise these defendants of the availability of these services and to provide the defendant with the appropriate contact information.
The legislation now awaits further Senate consideration.