Further ensuring successful inmate reentry and aiming to reduce recidivism, a bill sponsored by Assembly members Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Carol Murphy, Louis D. Greenwald and Shanique Speight (D-Essex) advanced on Monday.
“Inmates reentering society are finding themselves without work, without healthcare, without a home, and without a plan to successfully reengage with society,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Increased support and access to necessary services will give each of them a better chance at a real second-chance once they are released from prison. A county committee designated to rally resources is a starting point in providing, consistently, reentry services and helping to reduce recidivism.”
The bill (A-844) would require each county to form a nine-member “County Inmate Reentry Committee.” The committee would be tasked with identifying services available in the county to help inmates upon release from a county correctional facility. Services may include housing, food, medical care, clothing, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, employment, and education.
“We must have a system in place that gauges the needs of inmates prior to their release,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “Whether it’s medical needs, a job training program, housing or substance treatment, we should be connecting them to services that will help them succeed on the outside and rebuild their lives better.”
The legislation is one of the recommendations made by the New Jersey Reentry Services Corp. in its “Barriers, Best Practices and Action Items for Improving Reentry Services” report released in October of 2019.
“Anytime we provide people with greater access to the tools they need to succeed and strengthen their support systems, we are creating the opportunity to change the outcome,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “As we continue to work to reduce recidivism, this legislation is key to ensuring counties are identifying resources and actively coordinating inmate reentry services.”
“Former inmates face many barriers when reentering society. Their struggles are even more compounded by the current national public health crisis, high unemployment rates and racial injustice,” said Speight (D-Essex). “This legislation creates a committee that will lead the charge in their respective counties and make sure individuals reentering their communities are more prepared to start their lives again. Access to resources increases their chance for success.”
Under the bill, the committee is required to establish best practices for preparing county inmates for release; provide appropriate services to county inmates upon release; and continue post–release services, support, and supervision for at least one year. The panel would also make recommendations to the county and municipalities as to laws and regulations that may be needed to prepare county inmates for successful reentry into the community and reduce recidivism.
The measure was released by the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee.