(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblywomen L. Grace Spencer and Elease Evans sponsored to help give released inmates an improved chance of success and to save taxpayer dollars was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“This bill would not make it easier to serve sentences,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “What it would do is help ensure that after their time is served, prisoners re-entering society are better positioned to be productive citizens. That will save lives and taxpayer dollars.”

“Spending money time and time again on prisoners who come and go from our prison systems is, quite simply, a waste,” said Evans (D-Passaic). “We need to do better, not only for the wellbeing of the people trying to rebuild their lives in prison, but for taxpayers who need to know their money is spent smartly.”

The bill was among several introduced by Assembly Democratic lawmakers last session to save taxpayer money by cutting recidivism. Three were signed into law. This bill (A-2060) would modify existing law to authorize courts to:

  • Revoke fees at the time of sentencing;
  • Include mediation as an alternative condition of probation for both adults and juveniles;
  • Consider testimony from a defendant’s immediate family as part of the presentence reports;
  • Reduce the waiting period for disorderly persons expungements from five years to two years.

Specifically, the bill would allow a person convicted of a crime to petition the sentencing court for a revocation of any assessment, penalty or fee that has been imposed.

Currently, a court may only exercise its discretion in determining whether a fine may be revoked. The bill would provide judges with discretion to order defendants, as a condition of probation, to submit to an approved mediation program in lieu of incarceration, but only if the victim voluntarily consents. The program would mediate between the defendant and victim with the purpose of holding the defendant accountable to the victim, including through restitution or other agreed upon means of taking responsibility for the defendant’s action.

The bill would provide courts in juvenile delinquency cases the same discretion.

Further, the bill would reduce the waiting period for an expungement for disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. Currently, a person may petition for expungement of a record of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense five years from the date of conviction. This bill would reduce that to two years from the conviction.

Finally, the bill would clarify that when the court places a juvenile in the custody of the Department of Children and Families as a disposition, the service plan that is required must take into account any Medicaid or other benefits for which the juvenile is eligible. The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

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