Reentry Programs Should Address Risk Factors for Trauma: Ex-NJ Gov

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Illustration courtesy Vera Institute of Justice

Risk factors for addiction continue to complicate efforts by the formerly incarcerated to re-enter civil society, says former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey.

In an op ed for the Star-Ledger, McGreevey said statistics showing that many of New Jersey’s 7,000 formerly incarcerated participants were exposed to childhood trauma, chaos and violence were “staggering.”

“As a result, they have terribly shameful self-images, limited impulse control, and consistently engage in self-defeating behavior,” he wrote.

While the state has made “remarkable strides in the past six months” to help returning citizens transition back to normal life, “much more remains to be done for those reentering who continue to suffer from addiction,” McGreevey added.

jim mcgreeveey

Former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey. Photo via Wikipedia

He noted that current Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed three bills to restore voting rights to those on parole or probation, to create a progressive expungement process, including a “clean slate” provision for those who have led law abiding lives for a decade, and to eliminate mandatory driver’s license suspensions for certain non-moving offenses.

However, McGreevey said, additional efforts were needed to address the underlying problem of trauma and addiction, which is exacerbated by the violent environment in most prisons, coupled with the lack of sufficient social and medical services.

In his op ed, McGreevey, who is now the chair of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, cited a Rutgers University study showing that more than half (56 percent) of male inmates reported experiencing physical abuse as children, while 47 percent of females inmates reported experiencing childhood sexual abuse.

The U.S. Department of Justice implemented a pilot program in partnership with the State Parole Board and New Jersey Reentry Corporation, known as Swift, Certain, and Fair (SCF).

“From day one, each man and woman understands the consequences of reusing, but each is given a clear, workable and individualized plan to stay drug-free,” McGreevey wrote.

In the SCF program, each re-entry participant, in collaboration with Community Behavioral Health Clinics, has access to 12-18 months of psychiatric care for mental health and behavioral treatment, medication assistance treatment and a continuum of care from detox to Intensive Outpatient to outpatient care, and ongoing medical care.

It doesn’t stop there. Recovery specialists, who have been in recovery for years, coordinate high-touch care with a team that includes parole officers, while NJRC provides intensive services that include counseling with social workers, job training and placement, legal assistance, and referrals to housing programs.

According to McGreevey, the results are impressive: Since January 2019, out of 44 participants only two have had his or her parole revoked.

“SCF is the direction in which New Jersey needs to go. It is a great addition to a wide range of criminal justice reforms that make New Jersey a leader in combating the systemic problems of addiction treatment and reincarceration.” McGreevey wrote.

This summary was prepared by TCR intern Nia Morton.

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