As New Jersey criminal defense lawyers, we have always believed that reducing prison populations is not about dumping out extra inmates like so much garbage ,as so many states are doing at present. Instead, a combination of efforts aimed at reducing recidivism and offering prisoners viable alternatives to jail, can help reduce crime rates and at the same time, keep prison populations down.
While states around the country are struggling with overflowing prisons, in New Jersey, inmate numbers are actually on a decline. Between 2000 and 2009, there was a reduction of 14.8% in the prisoner population in the state. As of July, New Jersey citizens hold a total 25,263 prisoners.
Over the past decade, there has also been a decline in the number of new inmates. In 2000, 12,845 persons entered New Jersey prisons, while in 2009, there were 11,948 new inmates. There has also been a decline in the overall crime rates in the state. Crime in New Jersey fell by about 17% between 2000 and 2008. There was also a drop in violent crime of more than 13 % during the same period of time.
Much of this can be credited to the fact that the state has invested in other programs to deal with convicts. For instance, persons convicted of nonviolent drug-related crimes can choose to undergo drug programs, instead of prison. Here, persons can receive treatment for their drug addiction. There is one space freed in prison for every person who chooses a drug court program, and the chances of him being arrested and convicted again for drug crimes, also decreases.
Besides alternate programs, New Jersey has also been tweaking with minimum sentences for drug crimes. Now, people who are caught dealing with drugs within 1,000 feet of a school zone will not automatically go to prison.
As members of the New Jersey criminal defense lawyer fraternity, we’d like to believe that at least some of this has been accomplished due to our community’s constant support for alternative treatments and programs for convicts.