ASSEMBLY APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

ASSEMBLY, No. 4202

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  DECEMBER 3, 2009

 

      The Assembly Appropriations Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 4202, with committee amendments.

      The bill, as amended, contains various provisions related to policies concerning the rehabilitation and education of persons who are currently incarcerated.

      The bill directs the Commissioner of Corrections to work with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to establish a mandatory workforce skills training program in each of this State’s correctional facilities.

      This bill requires the Commissioner of Corrections to work with the Commissioner of Education to establish a program of mandatory education in this State’s correctional facility under which inmates will be required to attain a high school equivalency certificate or high school diploma.

      The bill permits the commissioner to award inmates special credits to provide further remission from their sentence for achievements in education and workforce skills training.

      The bill requires that a high school equivalency certificate issued to an inmate be issued by the Department of Education and designated as issued by the department.  Currently, the designation on these certificates indicates that they are issued by the Department of Corrections.

      This bill permits certain persons, convicted in the past, to obtain a court order that allows them to visit prisons, if they can show that such visits are likely to motivate and assist in the rehabilitation of incarcerated persons.  The orders granted under this bill will allow a person to visit any correctional institution in this State.

      The provisions of the bill that concern parole will cap, at a maximum of three years, the length of time that the parole board can require an inmate denied release to serve before having another hearing.  Currently, the board must develop a schedule of future parole eligibility dates for adult inmates denied release at their eligibility date.  The schedule places particular emphasis on the severity of the offense for which the inmate was denied parole and on the characteristics of the offender.

      The bill requires the appropriate parole board panel and the Department of Corrections or the Juvenile Justice Commission to enter into formal parole contract agreements with individual parolees or inmates which stipulate that if the affected parolee or inmate successfully fulfills the educational, training or other terms of the agreement, the parolee’s term of parole will be reduced or the inmate’s primary parole eligibility date will be moved up.  These parole contract agreements will be entered into within two months of an inmate’s admission to the correctional facility.  The bill requires that at least once every 12 months, the department, commission or appropriate board panel will monitor each parolee or inmate’s compliance with the terms of the agreement

      The bill establishes a mandatory six-month period of post-release supervision for all State inmates. 

 

FISCAL IMPACT:

      Portions of this bill, concerning various educational programs, could possibly cost approximately $3 million annually for instructional staff and fringe benefits.  Additional classroom space may be needed, resulting in capital investments, which are unknown at this point in time.  An accurate needs assessment would have to be undertaken.                    Some inmates may be awarded special credits which would reduce the sentence time for achievements in education and workforce training.  Any incentive which reduces time served would result in savings for inmate housing.  However, this cannot be determined.

 

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS:

The amendments:

      - require the Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish a mentoring program for new inmates at each prison.  The mentoring would be provided by DOC approved mentors who have been incarcerated for a continuous period of more than 10 years.

      - clarify that the agreements entered into between inmates or parolees and the appropriate board panel, the DOC or the Juvenile Justice Commission are “parole contract agreements” and to provide further clarity as to the purpose and goals of these agreements.

      - require the Commissioner of Corrections and the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to ensure that vocational training programs provided to inmates, remain current and relevant to employers current expectations of workforce qualification standards, and revise or terminate outdated programs and redirect inmates from terminated programs into other vocational training programs that meet current employer and industry requirements.

      -  make technical amendments to the bill.

 

 

 

 MINORITY STATEMENT TO

ASSEMBLY BILL NO. 4202 (1R)

 

By Assemblymen Merkt and Thompson, Assemblywoman Addiego, and Assemblyman DeMaio

 

      We concur with the Minority Statement previously submitted by Assemblymen Bramnick and Rible, based on the State’s current budgetary crisis:

      This bill falls into the category of legislation with worthwhile public policy intentions on the part of the sponsor, but one which will create additional costs for the State budget at a time when the State simply cannot afford additional spending.

      The State is facing very serious financial difficulties. Revenues are falling substantially below budgeted projections, meaning that the State will not even have sufficient funds to cover amounts appropriated in the FY 2010 budget.  The Governor has ordered his cabinet officers to recommend reductions in spending, and both he and the Governor-elect have announced means of addressing the dire fiscal circumstances that include moratoria on incurring any additional spending obligations.  It would be irresponsible for the Legislature to disregard both the incumbent Governor and the incoming Governor on the most pressing issue facing the State and its taxpayers.

      For this reason, we cannot support the advancement of this legislation at this time due to its budgetary impact.