October 15, 2018
Chairman and Members of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee
Re: Support for A1986
My name is Gale Muhammad and I am the Founder and President of Women Who Never Give Up. Women Who Never Give Up mission is to help people currently and previously incarcerated and their families get justice in our criminal justice and prison system. WWNG works daily with the NJ DOC and other state agencies, legislatures and communities fighting for policies that will provide all people the justice they deserve and are guaranteed in this country by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. WWNG is committed to Helping and Educating family members on a wide range of criminal justice and prison related issues. WWNG officers Advocate and Lobby for positive changes in our criminal justice system that will support the interest of families.
I urge you to vote yes on Assembly Bill 1986 which would allow for the release of certain nonviolent offenders after they have completed their basic sentence, provided that they have not committed any serious disciplinary infractions while incarcerated and have complied with rehabilitation recommendations.
Incarcerating a low-risk individual after they have completed their basic sentence wastes taxpayers money and reduces their chance of successful reentry and reintegration into the community upon their release. The overuse of incarceration tears apart vulnerable families and communities. These unfair and ineffective policies disproportionately impact New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities. While African Americans and Latinos make up less than 30 percent of the state’s population, they account for more than 80 percent of those who are incarcerated. And racial disparities in New Jersey prisons are the highest in the nation.
This bill will reduce the dramatically high number of people incarcerated in New Jersey prisons. Over the last thirty years, our prison population has grown at an unsustainable rate, driven largely by significant increases in both the use of imprisonment as well as sentence lengths.
In addition to the huge financial cost of imprisonment, research shows that long prison sentences do not enhance public safety or promote rehabilitation. Instead, they simply prolong the isolation of incarcerated people from their families and communities, further compounding the challenges they will face in their inevitable reintegration.
At the moment, administrative delays mean that offenders often remain in prison long after they become eligible for parole. This is unfair, ineffective and wastes taxpayer dollars.
As a community advocate, I see members of my community going to prison in record numbers, only to return and find themselves hopelessly discriminated against in the legitimate labor market. Many of these people would benefit from shorter sentences followed by release to treatment services; this would allow them to reconnect with family members and work towards becoming positive and productive members of society.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of our community is one of my highest priorities. Lengthy and unnecessary terms of incarceration do not serve these objectives. I believe that morality, compassion and common sense require us to pass the A1986 to ensure a fairer and more effective justice system.
Gale Muhammad Founder and CEO