N.J. Lawmakers Pass Mandatory Sentencing Reform Bill
A bill that gives judges discretion to override mandatory sentencing rules for drug sales in drug-free school zones has passed both houses of the New Jersey legislature, the Asbury Park Press reported Jan. 8.
The measure, which also allows inmates currently serving mandatory prison terms to appeal their sentences, was approved 46-30 in the Assembly and 25-11 in the House, then sent to Gov. John Corzone.
New Jersey law mandates a three-year prison term for those convicted of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. About 20 percent of inmates in state prisons are serving mandatory sentences for drug offenses; advocates say many would benefit more from addiction treatment than prison time.
“At one time, these types of mandatory minimum laws were considered untouchable,” said Roseanne Scotti of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. “But there is a growing public backlash against these failed policies and a growing willingness on the part of elected officials to address the mistakes of the past.”