TRENTON – The Assembly on Monday approved a series of bills vociferously trumpeted by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, aimed at cutting recidivism by improving inmate education and job training, as the big city mayor heads into a reelection contest come May.
Sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assembly members Albert Coutinho, Elease Evans, Mila M. Jasey, L. Grace Spencer and Cleopatra G. Tucker, the prisoner reentry reform package stems from a series of hearings that Watson Coleman hosted throughout New Jersey last year to hear from citizens and experts on how to cut into recidivism and save public money.
Booker’s chief allies in the assembly, Coutinho and Spencer, first ran for office in 2007 on a platform anchored by a promise to improve education and job training for those released from prison.
According to a press release issued this afternoon by the Assembly Democrats following the bill’s successful passage, “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. …The bills have been 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. “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.”
The majority leader said the state would 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 the veteran lawmaker. “Quite simply, it’s a disgraceful and destructive cycle that must come to an end for the good of all New Jersey taxpayers. Some have enjoyed humoring themselves with rants defending the status quo of wasted taxpayer money and wasted lives, but these reforms would be among the smartest moves we could make to save taxpayer dollars.”