In an effort to address concerns that New Jersey’s juvenile justice system relies on ineffective methods of sentencing and paroling adolescent offenders, legislation (A-5586) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Annette Quijano (D-Union) and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) to revise the current Code of Juvenile Justice was signed into law Monday by Governor Phil Murphy.
The law’s sponsors released the following joint statement:
“Although we have made improvements over the years, New Jersey still needs to do more for the adolescents who go through our court system. Our current justice system places more of an emphasis on harsh, mandatory sentences than on finding ways to reintegrate juvenile offenders back into society.
“Many of these children and teenagers come from complicated backgrounds and may not have fully understood the repercussions of their actions. In order to successfully rehabilitate them, we must give these young people the opportunity to learn and improve from their missteps, rather than incarcerating them for extended periods of time with little hope of release.
“That’s why this law introduces a number of changes to the Code of Juvenile Justice by incorporating principles of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. These principles would place restrictions on who can be incarcerated while replacing subjective decision-making processes with more objective methods of determining sentencing suitability and parole eligibility.
“Community-based alternatives to imprisonment, collaboration between court officials and other interested parties – such as lawyers and advocates, improved conditions in secure facilities and data collection on racial disparities will all be promoted as well, in an effort to reform our current system.
“We cannot let a child’s mistake determine the rest of their lives. They deserve a chance to grow from their mistakes and create a new path for their lives.”
Earlier this month, the law passed the Assembly 55-19 and the Senate 23-0.