As reported by nj.com, lawmakers moved toward eliminating the state’s controversial early-release program, which allows some inmates out of prison six months ahead of schedule. Governor Chris Christie and some lawmakers have blamed the program for two homicides allegedly committed by inmates released early.
Christie accelerated the program’s repeal with a conditional veto of related legislation intended to broaden the Parole Board’s discretion to review cases. The Senate approved the conditional veto, sending the measure to the Assembly.
“There are no more excuses left,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. “The Assembly must act immediately to repeal this dangerous failure of a law.” Senators overwhelmingly backed repealing the program, but not without some debate. Senator Nia Gill criticized Christie for what she called personal attacks on Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who sponsored the program. Senator Ronald Rice, the only lawmaker to vote against repeal, was also critical, saying, “It wasn’t an assemblyman or a senator who killed these people.”
Others said ending the program was overdue. “Two New Jerseyans lost their lives because of inaction in this chamber,” Senator Tom Kean said. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver did not say how her caucus would vote on the issue, but said in a statement that “clearly concerns have been raised that warrant re-examination” of the program.
Since the program began on January 3, 363 inmates have been released early, according to the Parole Board. Twenty-two have been arrested for new crimes. That includes Antoine Trent and Tyree Brown, who were accused of attacking a police officer in Union Township last week. Another former inmate, Quamere Redding, has been charged with attacking and robbing a 49-year-old woman earlier this month in Bridgeton. All three of them had been denied parole before being released early through the program, according to Parole Board Executive Director David Thomas.