Two lawmakers push package of criminal justice bills

TRENTON – Two lawmakers plan to unveil a package of criminal justice bills on Monday.

Sens. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, and Sandra Cunningham, (D-31), Jersey City said today they have introduced a slate of bills:

  • S907 – This would require the State Parole Board to release offenders at the time of parole eligibility, unless the offender has committed a serious disciplinary infraction while incarcerated or has not participated in rehabilitation programs offered in prison;
  • S881 – This amends the law to give judges and prosecutors additional discretion to admit certain offenders into a “drug court” program to emphasize substance abuse treatment over incarceration;
  • S876 – This amends the liquor licensing law to allow licensees to employ ex-offenders without a special permit.  Currently, licensees have to get the permission of the state to employ ex-offenders;
  • S878 – This would prohibit public and private employers from automatically disqualifying ex-offenders from employment.

“We have to be honest about our current criminal justice system – it just doesn’t work when it comes to stopping repeated criminal acts,” Lesniak said in a release.

Lesniak and Cunningham said they already have a great deal of support, including Integrity House; The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; The Drug Policy Alliance; The NJ Association on Correction; Union County Prosecutor Ted Romankow; Judge Barnett Hoffman, former Chair, NJ Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing and President, Middlesex County Adult Substance Abuse Program; Pastor Keith Davis, Camden Dream Center; and Pastor Steffie Bartley New Hope Memorial Baptist Church, Elizabeth.

Gov. Chris Christie, in his State of the State address on Tuesday, also included some initiatives on the law enforcement front.

He wants to see the bail system changed so that it will be harder for violent offenders to get back on the streets while awaiting trial. That proposal might end up needing a constitutional amendment.

In addition, Christie called for more use of secure, in-house drug-treatment facilities for certain offenders.

Lesniak and Cunningham plan on discussing their bills at 11 a.m. Monday at the Statehouse.

Two lawmakers push package of criminal justice bills