(TRENTON) — A sweeping bill package sponsored by six Assembly Democratic legislators to save taxpayer dollars by cutting recidivism by improving inmate education and job training was signed into law on Monday.
The package was sponsored by Assembly members Bonnie Watson Coleman, Albert Coutinho, Elease Evans, Mila M. Jasey, L. Grace Spencer and Cleopatra G. Tucker. It stems from a series of hearings on Watson Coleman and the sponsors hosted throughout New Jersey to hear from citizens and experts on how to cut into recidivism and save public money.
About 14,000 inmates are annually released from New Jersey correctional facilities, with 65 percent of adults re-arrested within five years. Taxpayers pay about $48,000 per year per inmate, according to the most updated state figures.
The bills were significantly amended and scaled back from the initial six-bill package to reduce and delay costs.
“The idea that we would willingly continue to fork over $48,000 in taxpayer money per year for every inmate and find that acceptable is hard to comprehend,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “This waste of money and lives cannot continue, and as we look to save money, stopping it is the moral and smart thing to do.”
Watson Coleman noted the state will save $1.3 million for every 1 percent reduction in recidivism.
“The pervasive cycle of arrest, release and re-arrest is failed system that wastes lives and costs taxpayers dearly,” said Watson Coleman. “Quite simply, it’s a disgraceful and destructive cycle that must come to an end for the good of all New Jersey taxpayers.”
“These reforms range from improving education and job training to enhancing family support to eliminating antiquated roadblocks to success for those released from prison,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “These common sense steps will give people an opportunity to earn their second chance and ensure we spend public money wisely.”
“None of these laws will make it easier to serve sentences,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “What they will do is make serving that time more sensible and help ensure that after their time is served, prisoners re-enter society ready to be productive citizens. That will save lives and taxpayer dollars.”
“The simple fact is that of the thousands people released from New Jersey prisons each year, 65 percent of the adults and 37 percent of the juveniles will return within two years,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “That is unacceptable, and these laws aim to not only to improve lives and neighborhoods, but to save money.”
“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 whose lives are being lost in our prisons, but for taxpayers who need to know their money is spent smartly.”
“We simply cannot afford to continue the present system of spending money repeatedly on repeat offenders,” said Jasey (D-Essex). “The time has come to change our approach so that we can give people and our society a better chance at a better future.”
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