TRENTON – Elected officials and advocates from across New Jersey lauded the initial recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, convened by Governor Phil Murphy. The Commission released its first report on Thursday, November 14, 2019, including recommendations to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, compassionate release for terminally ill inmates, and more provisions to create a more fair and equitable justice system.
See below for reactions to the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission's report:
Senate President Steve Sweeney:
“I welcome the recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing Commission and praise the work of its members, including my Senate colleagues Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator Nellie Pou. I know they worked tirelessly to find ways to address racial and ethnic disparities in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, which has the worst disparity in the rates of incarceration between black and white offenders in the nation. That is a terrible distinction for New Jersey that we need to erase.
“The Commission’s recommendations represent a significant first step forward in ensuring that New Jersey’s sentencing laws are fair, free of bias and respect our goal of social and legal justice. I support the Commission’s recommended reforms and I will work to have the Legislature do its part to make them a reality.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin:
“I thank you Chief Justice Poritz and all members of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission for their important work. The Commission’s recommendations deserve serious consideration. I will thoroughly review each of the seven core suggestions. ‘Justice for all,’ cannot be something we just say. We have to believe in that principle and do everything in our power to ensure ‘justice for all’ is a reality.”
Senator Sandra Cunningham:
“I am grateful Governor Murphy reinstated this commission. It is absolutely unacceptable that New Jersey has the greatest disparity in incarceration rates between black and white offenders but it is my hope that these recommendations will change that. It is no secret our criminal justice system has been failing communities of color since its inception, but this commission and the enactment of their recommendations can begin to turn the tide.”
Senator Nellie Pou:
“The appalling disparity between the criminal sentencing of people of color and whites is reprehensible. We can and we must do better. I’m grateful to the Governor for convening the commission and I am proud of my colleague Senator Cunningham as well as all the members of the commission for their dedicated and thoughtful work. These recommendations are a strong start towards reversing what has been a disgraceful state of affairs in New Jersey for far too long.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal:
“As a career prosecutor, I’ve always believed that our success should be measured not by the number of people we convict, or the length of the prison sentences we obtain, but by whether justice is done in each and every case. That’s why I support today’s historic recommendations, as do our state’s 21 County Prosecutors. Together, we’re committed to ensuring a criminal justice system that works fairly for everyone.”
Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, Esq.:
"The recommendations proposed by the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission provides a great first step in support of the governor’s commitment to criminal justice reform. They are sound policies that maintain public safety, address inequities, and will likely lead to reductions in prison population. Public safety remains our top priority and we are committed to partnering with all stakeholders to effectuate these recommendations.”
State Parole Board Chairman Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr.:
“It is an honor and privilege to serve on the commission and I thank Governor Murphy for including me in this important process. I am extremely proud of our work under the direction and leadership of Chief Justice Poritz, as well as the commission which unanimously developed and approved the first set of recommendations. I look forward to my continued participation in further developing rational, meaningful, and accountable policies that will help reduce and prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders, and continue to ensure public safety within our communities.”
President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP Richard Smith:
"We are glad to see this commission doing great work. The New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP feels that the recommendations made will make a concrete and tangible difference on the lives of many. Rather than incarcerating an individual who has made a mistake for life, we hope the sentencing guidelines provided will give many folks a second chance that they deserve."
Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch:
"This past Tuesday, as president of the County Prosecutor’s Association, I proudly made the motion to approve the 2019 Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Committee's report—a report designed to address sentencing disparities in New Jersey. The Commission’s collaborative efforts, which included Chief Justice Poritz, the Attorney General, CPANJ, the Public Defender, private defense attorneys, legislators, the Department of Corrections, the Parole Board and members of academia, to name a few, was historic and we all unanimously endorsed this report. We look forward to working with the legislature to implement the report's recommendations and to continue the work of this Commission in the future.”
Reverend Charles Boyer, Executive Director of Salvation and Justice:
“I applaud the Governor for reconvening the commission zafter years of being defunct by the previous administration. I look forward to these recommendations only being the first steps towards justice and equity.”
ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:
“The Sentencing Commission’s recommendations establish a base for initiating real reforms of an often unjust criminal justice system. Mass incarceration is a deeply rooted crisis that demands broad and bold solutions. In our state, which has the worst Black-white imprisonment disparity in the country, we need to rethink our traditional politics and policies surrounding crime and punishment, especially with regard to relentless prosecutions and excessive sentencing. What will determine the success of these recommendations is not just that they’re made, but that they’re only the beginning. No single commission can facilitate the necessary transformation of our criminal justice system, but these recommendations signify important progress toward that goal. It’s now time for the Legislature, the judiciary, and state agencies to move swiftly to implement the recommendations. New Jersey’s families shouldn’t have to wait any longer for these commonsense reforms."
State Director of Americans for Prosperity Tony Howley:
“These recommendations highlight the importance of much-needed criminal justice reforms, now. Our system’s punishment-standard of mandatory minimums for low-level, nonviolent offenses is increasingly obsolete and needs to end. "Our laws should help create pathways, not obstacles, for individuals to get back on their feet, lead fulfilling lives, and contribute to society. We look forward to continue working with a broad coalition of advocates to advance meaningful reforms that will create a smarter criminal justice system.”