ASSEMBLY APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

[First Reprint]

ASSEMBLY, No. 1986

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:† NOVEMBER 14, 2019

 

††††† The Assembly Appropriations Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Assembly Bill No. 1986 (1R).

††††† As amended and reported by the committee, Assembly Bill No. 1986 (1R), titled the ďEarn Your Way Out Act,Ē implements various corrections and parole reforms, including: requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the State Parole Board (SPB) to establish 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 billís reforms by an institution of higher educationís criminal justice program.†

††††† Under the amended bill, the Commissioner of Corrections and the Chairman of the State Parole Board are required to coordinate reentry preparation and other rehabilitative services within all State correctional facilities. †Staff within the DOC and SPB are responsible for developing and implementing an individualized, comprehensive reentry plan designed to prepare each inmate for successful release.

††††† The amended bill establishes administrative parole release.† Administrative parole release is available to an adult inmate who has met certain criteria at the time of primary or subsequent parole eligibility.† An inmate is to be administratively released on parole if:†

††††† 1) the inmate has not been convicted of a violent crime under the No Early Release Act; the Graves Act and certain other crimes committed with firearms; a sex offense under Meganís Law; or a sexually violent offense;

††††† 2) 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 prohibited act that is considered the most serious and results in the most severe sanctions, within the previous two years;

††††† 3) the inmate has completed relevant rehabilitation programs during incarceration or made application to participate in these programs but was unable to complete or denied access to the programs because of circumstances beyond the inmateís control; and

††††† 4) crime victims have received notification.

††††† The release occurs after a hearing officer reviews the preparole report of an inmate and the inmate is certified for release; a parole consideration hearing is not required. †Any denial of administrative parole release is to be appealable in accordance with the parole appeal procedures under current law.

††††† A parolee released on administrative parole release is to remain in the legal custody of the Commissioner of Corrections, be supervised by the Division of Parole of the SPB, and be subject to the conditions established by the appropriate board panel. If the parolee violates a condition of parole, parole may be revoked and the parolee returned to custody.

††††† For any inmate who is denied parole, the amended bill requires the SPB to state on the record the reasons for the denial, specifically providing evidence to support the denial based on factors that may be deemed subjective, as well as the reasons for the established future parole eligibility date.

††††† The amended bill establishes parole compliance credits to reduce the term of parole.† All parolees, except those who are ineligible for parole reductions, may earn one day for every six days of parole supervision the person has completed.† Parole compliance credits awarded under the amended bill cease to accrue upon the issuance of a warrant by the SPB and initiation of parole revocation proceedings and any credits earned are to be forfeited upon the revocation of parole.† Any compliance credits awarded under the amended bill that are based on actions for which parole revocation proceedings were initiated, but did not result in a revocation of parole and return to custody, are to be forfeited upon a determination by the board panel or board that the actions for which compliance credits were awarded violated a condition of parole.

††††† Additionally, with respect to periods of incarceration, the amended bill provides that inmates may be awarded commutation credits following arrest for time served in a county jail.†

††††† The amended bill directs the Commissioner of Corrections 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 that resulted in a conviction.

††††† The Commissioner of Corrections is required to allocate a portion of any cost savings realized from the amended billís enactment to the Office of Victim Services for the operating costs of the Focus on the Victim Program and other services to facilitate successful reentry.

††††† The amended bill requires a study to be conducted by a criminal justice program at a four-year public institution of higher education in this State to determine the impact that administrative parole release has on the inmate population, focusing on those inmates whose primary parole eligibility date was within the five years immediately preceding and the five years immediately following the amended billís date of enactment.††

††††† As amended and reported by the committee, Assembly Bill No. 1986 (1R) is identical to Senate Bill No. 761 (2R) which also was amended and reported by the committee on this date.

 

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS

The committee amended the bill to:

1)      Remove the provisions of the bill which provide for the establishment of a Division of Reentry in the DOC;

2)      Provide that the Chairman of the State Parole Board and Commissioner of Corrections are responsible for coordinating reentry preparation and other rehabilitative services within all State correctional facilities; as introduced, only the Commissioner of Corrections was responsible for developing these services;

3)      Provide that appropriate SPB staff, in addition to the appropriate DOC staff, are responsible for developing and implementing an individualized, comprehensive reentry plan designed to prepare each inmate for successful release; as introduced, only the DOC staff was responsible for developing and implementing the reentry plan;

4)      Remove the provisions of the bill requiring the DOC to conduct a study and issue a report concerning the fiscal impact of the billís provisions;

5)      Remove the effective date provisions which related to references to the establishment of the reentry division and fiscal analysis, which were removed from the amended bill; and

6)      make technical changes to the bill.

 

FISCAL IMPACT:

††††† The OLS concludes this bill would result in indeterminate cost savings and expenditures for the State.† Expenditure reductions could result from moving inmates from prison to parole and by reducing parole board hearings.† However, the bill directs DOC to establish and maintain a centralized database of information on inmate disciplinary reports resulting in indeterminate costs.† In addition, personnel costs are likely to go up with the increase in the number of eligible inmates who would require an individualized reentry plan for successful release.