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Timberlake, Quijano & Reynolds-Jackson Bill to Provide Resentencing Structure for Qualifying Juvenile Offenders Clears Panel

Legislation providing for the resentencing of certain juvenile inmates, sponsored by Assemblywomen Britnee Timberlake, Annette Quijano, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Four U.S. Supreme Court cases decided over the past decade, relying on developmental psychological and neuroscience research, have dramatically reshaped the juvenile justice system by concluding that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.” These decisions reflect a consensus that, as a group, juvenile offenders are less culpable and more amenable to rehabilitation than adults, and therefore, should be thought of for special consideration by the courts.

Under the provisions of this bill (A-4372), the Commissioner of Corrections would be required to issue a Certificate of Eligibility for Resentencing to any inmate who:

1) committed a crime as a juvenile and was tried as an adult;

2) received an aggregate sentence of incarceration of 30 years or more;

3) has served at least 20 years of that sentence; and

4) has not been resentenced or previously sought relief under the bill.

The sponsors Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). Quijano (D-Union), Reynolds-

Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) issued the following statement on the bill:

“The judicial system is moving in the direction that requires a more compassionate approach to the sentencing of our youth. A defendant’s immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences; family and home environment; peer pressures; inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors or his own attorney; and the possibility of rehabilitation are now used as guidelines for juvenile sentencing.

“We must ensure New Jersey courts are reviewing the sentencing of those who are serving and as we move forward, children entering our court system. For any one infraction, a child can spend, what is to them, an entire lifetime or, their childhood in a prison without the opportunity for real rehabilitation or chance for release.

“Knowing that people of color disproportionately make up the population of the U.S. prison system, we can say that mostly Black and Latino children are being excluded from real justice, real reform and the second chance to do what is right. This legislation is a beginning to give children who make mistakes a chance at correcting them and changing their future.”

Under the bill, an inmate who received a Certificate of Eligibility for Resentencing and received an aggregate sentence of incarceration with a period of parole ineligibility of 20 years or more may petition the court for resentencing.  The bill would provide that the court, upon consideration of a petition filed by an inmate, may, in its discretion, modify, reduce, or suspend the sentence, including any minimum or mandatory sentence or a portion of the sentence imposed upon the inmate.