As reported by nj.com, Governor Chris Christie is seeking to halt the early release of state prison inmates with the conditional veto of a separate bill today. The early release program has drawn a firestorm of controversy after two inmates who were allowed out of prison months early were accused of murder.
“Whatever original policy or principle motivated passage of this law, it failed to adequately consider the safety of the public,” Christie said in a statement. “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.”
The program, which started in January, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and signed into law by then-Governor Jon Corzine on his last day in office. Watson Coleman has it is wrong to blame the program for the actions of individual inmates.
A conditional veto is a powerful tool that allows the governor to modify legislation instead of rejecting it outright. Afterward, the bill returns to the Senate, which can accept the changes or seeks to overturn the governor’s recommendations with a two-thirds vote.
Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would make some inmates wait 10 years, rather than three, for their mandatory parole review. He said that does not go far enough, saying the Parole Board should have more discretion to decide whether to grant a review. Christie went a step further in his conditional veto by seeking the repeal of the early release program, which became law more than a year ago.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said the early release program needs to be changed. “The legislative intent was a worthy one, but I do believe it warrants reexamination,” she said. “No one wants to see violent offenders, or those that have been convicted of egregious offenses, released early from those sentences.”
Republican lawmakers, who had launched their own push to stop early releases through new legislation, hailed the governor’s conditional veto. “The governor’s action provides an additional path to repeal New Jersey’s early release law, and I am pleased that he has put his full support behind this effort,” Senator Diane Allen said in a statement. “With two homicides already committed by inmates released under the program, repealing this misguided policy should priority number one for the Legislature.”