- First Lady Mary Pat Christie Underscores Importance of Initiatives for At-Risk Populations

  • Friday, March 11, 2011
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Trenton, NJ - New Jersey’s innovative prevention and re-entry programs aimed towards at-risk populations are being championed by First Lady Mary Pat Christie for providing the building blocks to self-sufficiency and a pathway to achieve life success. Several of the initiatives are bringing recognition to the Garden State as a national model. 
“I feel very fortunate to have this unique opportunity to highlight these life-changing initiatives that are positively impacting the lives of men, women and teens across the Garden State,” said Mrs. Christie. “Every day in communities throughout New Jersey, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations are working to inspire our at-risk population to have pride in themselves for a brighter future filled with self-sufficiency and success.”
Mrs. Christie has visited a number of these organizations during the past year, including:
  • Isles Youthbuild in Trenton, a nonprofit community development and environmental organization that reaches out to at-risk high school dropouts, ages 16-24 to provide them with a high school education and diploma, marketable skills in the construction trade and personal development skills.
  • Project Self Sufficiency in Newton, a community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey by providing a broad spectrum of services that enable low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.
  • Crawford House in Skillman, which focuses on the particular needs of women in early recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction through an intensive, individualized, comprehensive, six month, treatment program.
  • Fugitive Safe Surrender at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, a program that is making a difference in the lives of thousands of individuals who have been willing to assume responsibility for their past actions. 
  • Integrity House in Newark, a women's supportive housing facility that offers a safe home for women and mothers with children dealing with addiction, be it alcohol or drugs and puts them on a track to achieve a good life for themselves and their families.  

New Jersey’s continued inroads in crime prevention and re-entry programs have provided a substantial reduction in the overall corrections population, made New Jersey a nationwide model in juvenile detention initiatives and rewarded the state for best practices in lowering parole violation rates.
Reduced  Corrections Population.  Since peaking in 1999 at a little over 31,000 inmates, New Jersey’s current prison population is just under 25,000, a more than 20 percent reduction over that time period.  Over the past five years alone, the reduction in corrections population has been reduced by slightly more than 9 percent. 

Fewer Parolees Returned to Custody.  The State Parole Board’s Residential Assessment Centers divert technical parole violators into facilities where they are evaluated and receive counseling to avoid returning to correctional custody.  Most recent data shows Parole has lowered the technical parole violation rate resulting in re-incarceration by 26 percent.  The Parole Board has received national recognition through a Council of State Governments “best practices” award for the RAC program. 
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative: JDAI, which seeks alternatives to detention for lower-risk kids, is currently operating in 12 of the state’s 21 counties, resulting in substantial reductions in juveniles in detention centers.  Between 2003 and 2008, JDAI resulted in a 41.4% drop in admissions to juvenile detention facilities. Due to this success, the Annie E. Casey Foundation recognizes New Jersey as the only statewide model site in the nation for JDAI implementation.
Study Links Employment to Lower Rates of Recidivism.  A study conducted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of prisoners returning to communities in Essex, Camden and Mercer Counties indicated that subjects who earned wages were nearly 30 percent less likely to be re-arrested than those that did not earn wages during the study period.
Reentry One-Stop Centers.  Working in partnership with state and local government, non-profit organizations and philanthropic foundations, one-stop “Opportunity Reconnect” Centers are now operational in Essex, Camden, Union and Atlantic Counties.  These centers provide a range of services to ensure a better transition back into the community. 
County-Based Jail Reentry Programs.  OAG launched a first of its kind competitive grant opportunity that resulted in the selection of four county correctional facilities to receive funding to implement jail-based reentry programs. Each program provides a variety of services to nearly 1,200 inmates statewide and in partnership with a range of local and community-based organizations.
Female Offender Reentry Group Effort (FORGE).  FORGE, a first of its kind, gender-specific parole program that serves more than 300 individuals per year has been expanded.  FORGE is based on individual accountability combined with a counseling component geared toward the needs of women returning to their communities.

 Distance Learning.  Through a partnership with DOC, Rutgers and The Nicholson Foundation, DOC implemented distance learning initiatives at two prisons and a halfway house where inmates can take educational and life skills classes and courses for college credit.  More than 300 inmates and parolees have utilized this program.
More on Mrs. Christie’s efforts can be found at http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/03/nj_first_lady_mary_pat_christi_1.html

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