New Jersey Rolling Back Mandatory Minimums, Becoming Smart on Crime, Says FAMM

For Immediate Release

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Contact: 

Monica Pratt Raffanel, media@famm.org

New Jersey Rolling Back Mandatory Minimums, Becoming Smart on Crime, Says FAMM

TRENTON, N.J. - Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) praises the New Jersey Assembly for taking the final step necessary to roll back mandatory minimum drug sentences and provide courts discretion when applying the New Jersey drug-free school zone law to nonviolent drug defendants.

The full Assembly concurred by a vote of 46-30 on an amendment to the Senate version of the sentencing reform bill today, Jan 7. This vote was the final hurdle before the legislation is sent to Governor John Corzine for his signature.

The prime sponsors of A-2762 and S-1866, Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), worked tirelessly to move the bill forward as a solution to ineffective, costly and egregious mandatory sentencing laws.

"FAMM commends the legislative leaders who fought for smart on crime sentencing policies in New Jersey. State lawmakers are increasingly disenchanted with ineffective and costly mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, drug-related offenses and are turning to policies that allow the courts to individualize punishments based on the facts of each case. This move signals a better course for New Jersey, and fairer sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders," said Deborah Fleischaker, FAMM's director of state legislative affairs.

The sentencing reform bills won the support of government officials, FAMM members and a wide variety of advocates. Eight former New Jersey Attorney Generals wrote a letter in support of reform in December and the city councils of Camden, Jersey City and Newark passed resolutions supporting the bills.

New Jersey's shift away from mandatory minimum penalties is part of a national trend that is rapidly gaining momentum. Over a dozen cash-crunched states have enacted significant sentencing reforms in the last decade, with Rhode Island being the latest state to repeal all of its drug mandatory minimums. In New Jersey, it costs more than $46,000 a year to incarcerate each prisoner, and the state spends roughly $331 million a year just to incarcerate nonviolent drug offenders.

A broad coalition of groups, including FAMM, Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, Volunteers of American Delaware Valley, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Community Education Centers Alumni Association, Macedonia AME Church Camden, Corporation for Supportive Housing, New Jersey Association on Correction, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Coalition of Community Corrections Providers of New Jersey, Women Who Never Give Up, People's Organization for Progress, Fathers and Men United for a Better Trenton, David Kerr/Integrity House, Healthfirst NJ, Hispanic Directors Association and Latino Leadership Alliance supported the sentencing reform bills.  

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Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for fair and proportionate sentences.  In 2006, FAMM launched a project in New Jersey to reform state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug and drug-free zone violations. For information, visit www.famm.org or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel monica@famm.org.

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