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Lopez, Holley & Kennedy Bill Creating "Anti-Hunger Link" on State Executive Department Websites Continues Advancing in Assembly

(TRENTON) – In an effort to make emergency food programs easily accessible to New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Jamel Holley and James Kennedy that would establish an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was approved Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The bill (A-4703) states that the link would direct website users to a dedicated internet page that lists all of the emergency food programs in the state, including but not limited to: emergency meal providers, food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and faith-based anti-hunger initiatives along with several other food programs.

“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”

Under the bill, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, a nonprofit organization may maintain and update the “Anti-Hunger Link” and emergency food program website.

“With the way some of our state websites are currently laid out, it could be difficult for users to navigate and register for food insecurity programs,” said Holley (D-Union). “By making this link a prominent, relevant feature on our websites, it will limit the challenges and sometimes even stresses that many hungry residents experience when trying to learn more about and apply for food programs.”

“The goal of this bill is to significantly decrease the time and energy our residents spend in order to access food,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “With just one click on a website, those who are in need will be taken to a list of food programs along with ample information to either gain access to food or apply for various programs.”

This measure is part of a 14-bill package recently approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee working toward a Hunger-Free New Jersey.

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McKnight, Chiaravalloti, Holley, Chaparro, Downey, Mosquera, Moriarty & Lopez Bills Focused on Senior Citizen Housing Concerns Clears Committee

Designed to protect senior citizen tenants in New Jersey, three bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Jamel Holley, Annette Chaparro, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty and Yvonne Lopez that focus on security as well as tenant-landlord relationship protection were approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on Monday.

“Simply put, everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Senior citizens are often seen as easy targets by criminals. They can also be easy targets for landlord fraud. These bills help to protect seniors on all fronts – by increasing protection in terms of safety as well as the rights they have as tenants, regardless of age.”

The first bill (A-1418) sponsored by McKnight, Chiaravalloti and Holley would require high-rise apartment buildings for seniors that are located in high crime areas to provide 24-hour security.

If the building consists of 75 dwelling units or more, the security obligation must be met through 24-hour monitoring by on-site security guards. If the building consists of at least 50, but fewer than 75 dwelling units, this obligation may be satisfied through the use of video surveillance cameras operated 24 hours a day, recording all building exits and entrances, as well as any common areas, including parking lots, where criminal incidents have occurred within the past 12 months.

“As rent payers, these residents have a right to feel safe,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Having a security guard posted in these buildings can help prevent unwanted individuals from getting inside and causing trouble. A building owner may not be able to prevent what goes on outside the building, but should provide tenants with a sense of security inside the building.”

“Security is integral whether you live in a house or an apartment building. In neighborhoods where crime is a problem, even more so,” said Holley (D-Union). “Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and criminals see them as easy marks. Having around the clock security can help keep people with bad intentions out, and give these tenants some much needed peace of mind.”

Another bill (A-3698), sponsored by McKnight, Chaparro and Downey, prohibits a landlord of a senior citizen housing project from assessing late charges against a senior citizen tenant who was unable to make a timely rental payment due to being admitted to a health care facility. The bill would allow for a grace period of five days after being discharged from the facility.

“The health of our residents should always be a priority,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “This bill will protect our senior citizens who are unable to pay rent when they are away from their home as they are focusing on their health – which is something they should not, under any circumstance, be penalized for.”

“Life happens, and it can sometimes be impossible to predict a hospital visit,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “If that is the case, it is of no fault of the tenant who is not physically able to deliver or mail their rent. It is only right that we put our senior citizens’ health first, and allow them the recovery time they need without the worry of how much extra money they will have to put towards rent when they get home.”

The third bill (A-4397) sponsored by Mosquera, Moriarty and Lopez would require landlords of senior citizen housing projects to provide, in writing, a rent increase notice and an explanation of why the rent is increasing for their tenants.

“Many senior citizens are living on a fixed-income, which can make it difficult to handle a surprise increase in their rent,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill will help to provide ample notice and just reasoning for an increase to rent, which will allow seniors to plan for these changes accordingly.”

“It is no secret that renting a home in New Jersey can be costly,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This alone is already a challenge for so many of our seniors living in retirement communities, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. The goal of this bill is to eliminate the extra stress of sudden rent increases that could make these communities unaffordable for seniors as well as strengthen the relationship between tenants and their landlords.”

“Our senior community includes some of our state’s most vulnerable residents, and it is imperative that we protect them in every way we can,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “This bill will help senior citizens feel more comfortable in their homes as opposed to constantly worrying about whether they will have to leave as a result of potential last-minute increases of living costs.”

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Downey, Johnson & Holley Resolution Designating Thursday of Third Week in September Each Year as “Food Waste Prevention Day” Clears Assembly Panel

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Lopez, Holley & Kennedy Bill Creating “Anti-Hunger Link” on State Executive Department Websites Clears Committee

In an effort to make emergency food programs easily accessible to New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Jamel Holley and James Kennedy that would establish an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-4703) states that the link would direct website users to a dedicated internet page that lists all of the emergency food programs in the state, including but not limited to: emergency meal providers, food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and faith-based anti-hunger initiatives along with several other food programs.

“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”

Under the bill, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, a nonprofit organization may maintain and update the “Anti-Hunger Link” and emergency food program website.

“With the way some of our state websites are currently laid out, it could be difficult for users to navigate and register for food insecurity programs,” said Holley (D-Union). “By making this link a prominent, relevant feature on our websites, it will limit the challenges and sometimes even stresses that many hungry residents experience when trying to learn more about and apply for food programs.”

“The goal of this bill is to significantly decrease the time and energy our residents spend in order to access food,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “With just one click on a website, those in need will be taken to a list of food programs along with ample information to either gain access to food or apply for various programs.”

This measure is part of a 14-bill package heard by the Assembly Human Services Committee Thursday working towards a Hunger-Free New Jersey.

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Assembly Panel Acts on Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight Bill to Regulate Adult Use Cannabis in NJ

New Jersey would become the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis use,
not including Washington, D.C.

(TRENTON) – Moving forward on legalization of the adult use cannabis after hearing from communities and all potential stakeholders throughout New Jersey, the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday approved measure A-11 that would set new, unprecedented regulation in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.

Currently Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have legalized the adult-use of cannabis that permits the cultivation and sale of cannabis establishing regulated revenue producing markets. Vermont and Washington D.C. allow for growing but prohibit the sale of cannabis.

If the bill is enacted, New Jersey would become only the second state in the country to set regulations for cannabis as an act of the legislature.
“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). ‘I became interested in legalization due to the inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws and there long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color.

“It is time we listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. Although this aims to be a long road ahead of us, this bill is the first step.”

The bill (A-11), named the NJ Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Modernization Act, would legalize for persons 21 years of age or older the possession and personal use of cannabis in the amount of one ounce or less or the equivalent of one ounce or less of cannabis infused product in solid, liquid or concentrate form. The measure also establishes an expungement relief process for arrests under the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.

“Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than their white counterparts which has disenfranchised a number of residents and specific communities for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component to cannabis legalization is how we address these social justice concerns as we lay a new path for personal use in New Jersey. This is a long time coming to the state and expungement consideration is a key part of the regulations suggested under this bill.”

New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests constituted three out of five drug arrests also in 2012.

The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.

“As a prime sponsor, it was important to ensure the legislation included real enterprising opportunity paired with decriminalization and expungement for the minority population that has been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana. The bill includes diversity and economic development opportunities for start-up and existing minority businesses to flourish through participation in this new emerging multi-billion dollar market. This, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission which requires diversity, was pivotal to include,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex). “In addition to legalization being a clear revenue generator for the State, the social justice and diversity portion was imperative.”

“This is possibly the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission and even more possibly, since the prohibition era,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “The components of this bill listen to New Jersey residents who are not happy with the status quo and would like to move the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis for medical use and discreet personal use. This bill is the start of the process.”

Highlights of the legislation include:

· Establishes a Five-Member Commission to oversee the development, regulation and enforcement of activities associated with the personal use of cannabis, as well as for medical.

· Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the products contents.

· Reduces burden on court system The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.

· Creates Jobs, Economic Driver Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.

· Opens the job market to more residents By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.

· Promotes Social Equity Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities and NJ veterans a seat at the table.

· Takes Action for Social Justice Includes additional expungement guidelines that address

· Sets New Jersey apart as leader in the tristate area, country The reality is New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have already begun to consider and take action.

The legislation was one of three bills considered by the joint meeting of the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Holley on Passage of Expungement Legislation Concerning Cannabis Offenses

(TRENTON) – On the approval of legislation that would revise procedure for expunging records of conviction, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) issued the following statement Monday:

“An opportunity for a clean slate for someone who has committed minor offenses is the best thing we can do to enable them to seize the opportunities life presents them.

“Moving this bill alongside legislation concerning the legalization of cannabis is critically important to correcting the wrongs of the past as we now look forward to the future of marijuana use in New Jersey.

“Expanding definitions, and creating a process for residents to clear their name and their record had to be a part of, a critical part of, cannabis regulation.”

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Assembly Approves “Nosey’s Law,” Mukherji, Zwicker & Holley Bill Provides Protections to Elephants and other Exotic Animals in NJ

(TRENTON) – Concerned about the abuse of elephants and other exotic animals in circus acts, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker and Jamel Holley prohibiting the use of these animals in traveling acts such as fairs, carnivals, circuses and flea markets in New Jersey advanced by the Assembly Monday by a 71-3 vote. New Jersey would be the first state to ban traveling circuses.

The bill (A-1923) is designated as “Nosey’s Law,” in honor of Nosey the elephant, who is forced to travel the country and give rides at events despite being virtually crippled by arthritis. The arthritis has likely caused unnecessary suffering and permanent disability for Nosey, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed to take action to protect Nosey, and Nosey’s owners continue to use her in shows.

“These are wild, endangered animals, and they should be cared for according to the highest ethical standards to ensure the survival of their species,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “We cannot allow ill-equipped handlers of traveling animal acts to mistreat and exploit endangered species.”

A number of other states are considering bans on wild animal circus acts, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New York. A federal bill – the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA /H.R.1759) – has gained bipartisan support in the US House, to end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows nationwide.

“The mistreatment of any animal is inhumane and wrong,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “But it is particularly disturbing when wild, endangered animals are captured, misused, and exploited for profitable entertainment.”

“The conditions some of these animals are forced to endure is deplorable, not fit for any animal,” said Holley (D-Union). “Many of the elephants, large cats and others are among our most endangered species, with only a few remaining. We should be protecting and preserving future generations instead of exploiting them.”

Any violations would be subject to the penalties provided in section 10 of “The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act,” which would include administrative penalties, civil penalties and injunctive relief, but not the criminal penalties described in the law.

This legislation does not apply to a non-mobile, permanent institution or facility licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and permitted by the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Department of Environmental Protection, institutions of higher education exhibiting wild or exotic animals for educational purposes or outreach programs conducted by government entities.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

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Assembly Panel Considers Holley, Wimberly, Benson & Mukherji Bill to Help End Lead Paint Threat by Requiring Inspections During Home Sales & Rental Turnovers

Opening a dialogue with a goal of helping to end the lead paint threat in New Jersey homes, the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee discussed legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly, Dan Benson and Raj Mukherji that would require lead paint inspections prior to home purchases and tenant turnover on Monday.

The bill (A-1877) also requires the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), in consultation with the state Department of Health, to establish a statewide, ongoing educational program designed to meet the needs of tenants, property owners, realtors and real estate agents, insurers and insurance agents and local building officials about the nature of lead hazards as well as the importance of lead hazard control and mitigation. The DCA would also establish guidelines and a trainer’s manual for a lead hazard seminar for rental property owners.

“This is one of the most crucial steps we can take to decisively put an end to the pervasive threat of lead in our home environments,” said Holley (D-Union). “By mandating inspections on all home sales or rental turnovers, we can systematically remove this threat once and for all.”

This measure requires every contract of sale for real property to include a provision, as a condition of the sale, requiring a certified lead evaluation contractor to inspect any dwelling located on the property for lead-based paint hazards.

The lead evaluation contractor must be certified to provide lead paint inspection services by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). If the contractor finds that no lead hazards exist in dwellings located on the property, then they would certify the property as lead-safe on a form prescribed by the DCA.

“While lead contamination in water is undoubtedly a concern, the persistent presence of lead paint in homes, particularly in poorer, urban areas is a far greater threat to our children,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic), Chairman of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. “It’s time for New Jersey to start mandating inspections to put an end to this threat.”

Additionally, the bill would require municipalities to inspect every single-family, two-family, and multiple rental dwelling located within the municipality for lead-based paint hazards at tenant turnover.

Municipalities would charge a fee for the inspection at a rate proportional to the current “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law” fee schedule. Moreover, the bill requires municipalities to impose an additional fee of $20 per unit inspected by a certified lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency for deposit into the “Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.”

“Lead-based paint was banned in New Jersey 40 years ago and remains a present and significant health hazard in far too many homes,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill will create both a healthier and safer environment for our state’s families.”

“Lead exposure can have devastating and irreversible consequences,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “New Jersey residents must be protected, especially in their own homes. By creating strict guidelines for proper lead inspections as well as raising awareness of this issue, we can save lives.”

If a municipality maintains a permanent local agency for the purpose of conducting inspections and enforcing laws, ordinances, and regulations concerning buildings and structures, that agency would inspect single-family, two-family, and multiple rental dwellings for lead-based paint hazards. If the municipality does not maintain such an agency, then the municipality would hire a lead evaluation contractor, certified to provide lead paint inspection services by the DCA.

Dwelling units that pass visual tests for intact paint frequently contain invisible lead dust hazards detectable through dust wipe sampling. In municipalities that have a higher concentration of children with elevated blood lead levels, the bill requires a lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency to inspect for lead-based paint hazards through dust wipe sampling. In municipalities with a lower concentration of children with elevated blood lead levels, the bill allows a lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency to inspect for lead-based paint hazards through visual assessment.

Rental properties that have been certified to be free of lead-based paint or lead-safe, properties that were constructed during or after 1978, and seasonal rental units would be exempt from the inspection and registration requirements. However, the bill eliminates the exemption for seasonal rentals from the cyclical inspections required under the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Act.”

The discussion of this bill follows a hearing held by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee to discuss mold, lead, and environmental concerns in New Jersey.

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Jasey, Holley & Mazzeo Bill to Ensure Continuation of Foreclosure Mediation Program to Combat NJ’s Ongoing Foreclosure Crisis Gains Committee Approval

New Jersey has had Highest Rate of Foreclosures in the Country
Over the Last Several Years

(TRENTON) – Working to reduce the staggering number of foreclosures in New Jersey and help homeowners keep their homes, the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee approved legislation Monday sponsored by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Jamel Holley, and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo that would codify the state’s Foreclosure Mediation Program into law.

For the last several years, 2018 included, New Jersey has had the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. The Foreclosure Mediation Program was established in 2009 by the New Jersey Judiciary system in response to an alarming increase in residential foreclosures.

“Foreclosures not only affect homeowners, but neighborhoods and the state as a whole,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “For far too long, we have led the country in foreclosures. The mediation services provided by this program can help homeowners avoid foreclosure and reinvigorate our housing market by reducing our dismal foreclosure rates. It is essential that we keep these services going.”

The bill (A-664) would require that, at the time the homeowner receives a notice of intention to foreclose, a homeowner must receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. Upon the filing of a mortgage foreclosure complaint against an eligible property, the homeowner must again receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. The written notice must be available in both English and Spanish.

The bill would also authorize eligible homeowners to submit a mediation request in accordance with court rules, which would then initiate the process of scheduling a mediation session with their lender. Along with the mediation request, the homeowner is required to submit a certification document, signed by a foreclosure prevention and default mitigation counselor, to verify that this professional is providing the homeowner with counseling.

“No homeowner wants to lose their home,” said Holley (D-Union). “Making this program a permanent fixture would ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure will always have an alternative. It would also help chip away at the foreclosure crisis that has loomed over the state for too long.”

“Foreclosed properties can sit vacant for extended periods of time, which can affect property values of nearby homes,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We should give homeowners who are struggling the opportunity to keep their homes and avoid the ripple effects of foreclosures on neighborhoods.”

This measure also creates a dedicated, non-lapsing fund within the General Fund to be known as the “Foreclosure Mediation Fund.” The fund would include receipts equaling $50 from every foreclosure complaint filing fee, along with all fines imposed on lenders for noncompliance with obligations of the mediation program under the bill.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.

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Sumter, Holley & Wimberly Bill Aimed at Improving Rehabilitation, Reducing Recidivism Rate Clears Assembly Panel “Earn Your Way Out” Measure Would Require Individualized Re-Entry Plan for Each Inmate

(TRENTON) – Taking a bold step toward criminal justice reform, Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Jamel Holley and Benjie Wimberly are sponsors of the “Earn Your Way Out Act,” which aims to end the school-to-prison pipeline, assist those individuals in recovery and rehabilitation, reduce the number of repeat offenders and provide savings by eliminating the $50,000 a year it costs to incarcerate a prisoner. This bill was advanced Monday by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

“The majority of the more than 10,000 inmates who are released from prison each year in New Jersey will be re-arrested, and two in five will return to prison. In addition to the direct impact this has on their own lives, it also affects their families, their communities and the entire state,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s critical that we stop this woeful pattern by making sure that these men and women have the education, job skills and other resources they need in order to be productive members of society after leaving prison.”

“For far too long, we have allowed the school-to-prison pipeline to remain intact,” said Holley (D-Union). “Now, we have a piece of legislation that will finally allow us to break this pipeline, and help make incarcerated New Jerseyans truly gain a second chance.”

“This is exactly where our focus should be when it comes to reforming the system, reducing crime and shutting the revolving door on this country’s prisons,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Comprehensive and effective rehabilitation programs will restore hope, dignity, and provide former inmates the second chance they deserve to do better once released. There’s a lot more to be done; however, this is a critical step to stabilizing families, reforming a broken system that has burdened our state and society with unquantifiable costs.”

The bill, (A-1986) would enact various corrections and parole reforms, including requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to develop a reentry plan for each inmate, establishing administrative parole release for certain inmates, providing for parole compliance credits, creating an inmate disciplinary database and mandating an impact study of the bill’s reforms by an institution of higher education’s criminal justice program.
Those reforms are detailed as follows:

Reentry Preparation and Rehabilitative Services
The Commissioner of Corrections is required to establish a Division of Reentry and Rehabilitative Services to coordinate reentry preparation and other rehabilitative services within all State correctional facilities, and to act as a liaison to the State Parole Board. Staff within the division is responsible for developing and implementing an individualized, comprehensive reentry plan designed to prepare each inmate for successful integration as a productive, law-abiding citizen upon release.

Administrative Parole Release
Administrative parole release means the release of an adult inmate who has met the criteria set forth in the bill at the time of primary or subsequent parole eligibility, and occurs after a hearing officer reviews the pre-parole report of an inmate, who is then certified for release.

Under current law, an adult inmate is released on parole at a time of parole eligibility, unless the inmate has failed to cooperate in his or her own rehabilitation or there is a reasonable expectation that the inmate will violate conditions of parole.

This legislation provides that an inmate will be administratively released on parole at the time of primary or subsequent parole eligibility if:

• The inmate has not been convicted of a violent crime under the No Early Release Act, a sex offense under Megan’s Law, or a sexually violent offense;
• The inmate has not committed any prohibited acts required to be reported to the county prosecutor pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Corrections that resulted in a conviction during the current term of incarceration, or any serious disciplinary infraction within the previous two years;
• The inmate has completed relevant rehabilitation during incarceration, or made application to participate in these programs but was unable to complete such programs or denied access because of circumstances beyond the inmate’s control; and
• Crime victims have received notification required by current law.

Once a parolee is released on administrative parole, they are to remain in the legal custody of the Commissioner of Corrections, be supervised by the Division of Parole of the State Parole Board, and be subject to the provisions and conditions established by the appropriate board panel. If the parolee violates a condition of parole, the parole may be revoked and the parolee returned to custody.

Parole Compliance Credits
This bill enables all eligible parolees to earn compliance credits, wherein their term is reduced by five days for each month they remain in compliance with the conditions of parole and does not commit a serious or persistent infraction.

Additionally, the bill provides that inmates may be awarded commutation credits following arrest for time served in a county jail. Currently, commutation credits are not available to inmates who serve time in a county jail prior to serving time in a State correctional system.

Disciplinary Database
Under this bill, the Commissioner of Corrections is required to establish and maintain a centralized database of information contained in each disciplinary report prepared by a corrections officer in response to an inmate committing a prohibited act, required to be reported to the county prosecutor.

Cost Savings Allocation
The Commissioner of Corrections is also required to allocate a portion of any cost savings realized from the bill’s enactment to the Office of Victim Services for the operating costs of the Focus on the Victim Program, as well as other services to facilitate successful recovery.

Impact Studies
Also required by this bill is the conduction of a study by a criminal justice program at a four-year public institution of higher education in New Jersey to determine the impact that administrative parole release, as established in the bill, has on the inmate population.

In addition, the Commissioner of Corrections, in consultation with the Chairman of the State Parole Board, must conduct a study to determine the fiscal impact of establishing a Division of Reentry and Rehabilitative Services.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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