On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Governor Phil Murphy today signed landmark legislation to reform New Jersey’s juvenile justice system. ACNJ Vice President Mary Coogan is quoted in the news release from the governor's office:
“New Jersey has led the nation with a drastic decline in the rate at which youth are locked up, but disparities remain. We applaud Governor Murphy and members of the New Jersey Legislature, who are working with advocates and stakeholders across the state to create a stronger, fairer and more effective juvenile justice system.
While young offenders should be held accountable for their actions, the goal is to return them to their communities, equipped with the skills they need to stay out of trouble and mature into productive adults. To do this, we need to construct a juvenile justice system that is truly therapeutic rather than punitive. We need to provide youth with better alternatives, diverting those who have committed minor offenses into more constructive enterprises, and rehabilitate serious juvenile offenders with the support they need, providing a path for successful re-entry once they are released.”
Key features of the legislation include:
- incorporating JDAI principles into sentencing decisions;
- eliminating mandatory minimums;
- eliminating many of the mandatory and discretionary financial penalties imposed on youth;
- improving the standards governing parole and revocation;
- replacing the now-mandatory post-incarceration supervision period with one that is discretionary, cannot exceed a year, and cannot lead to reincarceration; and
- rigorous data collection and reporting requirements.