For Immediate Release


Monica Pratt Raffanel (202) 621-5044   

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

FAMM Commends New Jersey Senate for Passing Mandatory Minimum Reforms

TRENTON, NJ - Families
Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) commends Senators Raymond Lesniak and
Sandra Cunningham for sponsoring and the New Jersey Senate Judiciary
Committee for embracing the judicial discretion bill, which would
provide courts with a way to avoid the harsh mandatory minimum
sentences when applying the New Jersey drug-free school zone law to
nonviolent defendants.  The Senate Judiciary Committee’s action today
follows the national trend away from one-size-fits-all sentencing laws
and toward passing legislation that would allow the courts to exercise
discretion in criminal sentencing. 

Deborah Fleischaker, FAMM’s director of state legislative affairs, made the following statement in reaction to the vote:
“New Jersey
lawmakers are becoming smart on crime, moving away from the one-note,
lock ‘em up policies of the 1980s and 1990s and toward tailored and
appropriate sentences that fit the punishment to the crime.  Allowing
courts to exercise discretion when sentencing defendants can save New
Jersey millions of dollars while protecting public safety and reducing
the injustices caused by mandatory minimum drug sentences. As states
and the federal government begin to turn their backs on mandatory
minimums, there has never been a better time for legislative leaders in
New Jersey to correct this outdated policy.” 
Senate Bill
1866, sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Sandra
Cunningham (D-Jersey City), is a companion bill to legislation passed
by the Assembly in 2008.  Both S-1866 and A-2762, sponsored by Assembly
Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer) and Assemblyman Gordon
M. Johnson (D-Bergen), would also allow the courts to waive or reduce
parole ineligibility or place a defendant convicted of violating the
drug-free school zone law on probation if they meet certain
requirements.  At sentencing in cases involving school zone charges,
courts could consider the extent of the defendant’s prior criminal
record and seriousness of the offenses; the location of the zone
offense; and the reasonable likelihood of exposing children to
drug-related activities at that location.  Gov. Jon Corzine has
promised that he will sign sentencing reform legislation if it makes it
through the legislature. 

New Jersey’s move toward individualized sentencing laws is
part of a national trend away from mandatory minimum sentencing laws so
popular in the tough on crime heyday.  Over a dozen 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. 


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 or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel


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