NJ Gov. Signs Law Granting Non-Violent Offenders Early Parole Eligibility

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Governor Phil Murphy speaking during a Town Hall in September 2019. Photo by Edwin J. Torres/ Governor's Office via Flickr.

New Jersey will grant early parole to some inmates convicted of non-violent crimes under new reforms announced by Gov. Phil Murphy in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

The early-parole law was one of three criminal justice reform bills signed into law by Gov. Murphy on Monday, NJ.com reports

Speaking at the annual MLK Day celebration at New Hope Baptist Memorial Church in Elizabeth, NJ, Gov. Murphy said that when he took office back in January 2017, “New Jersey had 12 times more black than white prisoners.” 

He said that one of his goals as governor has been to “undo the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.” 

The first new law, S761, has been dubbed as the “Earn Your Way Out Act.” Its aim is to streamline and speed up the state’s parole process to give non-violent offenders a way back into society again. 

“We are a state that believes in second chances,” Gov. Murphy told the crowd. “These changes are a second chance for New Jersey to do the right thing.”

Under the bill, inmates requesting earlier parole, which the bill defines as “at least 120 days but not more than 180 days prior to the parole eligibility date,” must meet strict requirements.

Those requirements include having no serious disciplinary infractions while incarcerated, and having completed relevant rehabilitation programs. 

This new law also creates Administrative Parole, “which will allow certain inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses to forgo a full parole hearing and instead be released on parole after a review by a hearing officer and certification by a member of the State Parole Board,” NJ.com explains.

With these new requirements and influx of eligible currently incarcerated inmates, the New Jersey State Parole Board (SPB) expects the increase in the annual number of parolees to range from 1,749 to 1,923, as cited by NJ.com.

The State Patrol Board explained the cost in a legislative fiscal estimate given to the Senate, saying, “Assuming 1,923 more parolees, the SPB projected that its annual expenditures would rise by up to $16.6 million, or $8,612 per additional parolee, once the effects of the bill would be fully realized.”

The other two bills signed into law by Gov. Murphy on Monday included A4970, which changes the state’s rules for “Civil Asset Forfeiture — when authorities confiscate your property and cash when you’re charged with a crime.”

This new law will make it easier for individuals who have been dismissed or acquitted of criminal charges to recover what has been seized from them, Gov. Murphy explained. 

The third and final new law, S3309, establishes the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program in the state Attorney General’s Office to fund initiatives to reduce violence.

The intervention program will “award grants to municipalities, health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and non-profit organizations to implement the initiatives in communities with disproportionately high rates of gun violence,” NJ.com detailed. 

All three bills passed the Senate and Assembly with staggering bipartisan support.  

Additional Reading: Louisiana Leads Nation in Life Without Parole Terms

Andrea Cipriano is a staff writer for The Crime Report.

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