Governor Chris Christie today took action to protect the public safety of New Jerseyans and provide needed reform to state law governing New Jersey's Parole Board with a conditional veto of Senate Bill 2308. As written, S-2308 would have increased the cycle from every 3 years to every 10 years of mandatory parole review, rather than address the fundamental problems that have stemmed from statutorily-mandated parole review, including the impact on crime victims and their families and the failure to consider inmates' rehabilitative progress in granting a parole review. This policy shift, enacted during the final days of the Corzine Administration, overturned 30 years of successful practice of the Parole Board utilizing its own discretion, experience and judgment in parole consideration.
Governor Christie wrote, "For more than thirty years, the Parole Board relied on its institutional experience and reasoned discretion to determine when inmates would be considered for parole. This common-sense standard balanced the administrative needs of the corrections system with the rehabilitative goals of incarceration, and allowed the Parole Board to devote its limited resources to consideration of appropriate cases. While I commend the sponsors for their attempt to provide relief to the victims of crimes through this amendment, this approach does not provide sufficient reform. Requiring automatic parole hearings at any interval not set by the State Parole Board, and not based on the Board's judgment of the facts of each offender's case, perpetuates a system that values bureaucracy over rehabilitation at the expense of innocent victims."
By removing the Parole Board's discretion to determine the inmates suitable for parole, P.L.2009, c.330 strips away the authority of the entity charged with perhaps the most sensitive and personalized determination in our criminal justice system: whether a person has earned the right to rejoin society before the conclusion of his court-ordered sentence. Governor Christie's conditional veto restores the State Parole Board's authority to make these decisions.
Furthermore, Governor Christie's conditional veto also makes additional changes to P.L.2009, c.330, providing for the full repeal of the mandatory early release provisions found in Section 8 of the law. Governor Christie cited the effect of the mandatory early release in endangering public safety through the release of prisoners who have either been denied parole or opted to avoid parole supervision entirely by "maxing out" their sentences. The danger of this law to the public is real and has already been tragically demonstrated with the murders of two individuals, allegedly by two inmates released under the mandatory provisions of Section 8.
"Whatever original policy or principle motivated passage of this law, it failed to adequately consider the safety of the public. In recent months we have seen the horrific consequences of the early release law, which is why we must not wait any longer to take action and change it," said Governor Christie.