what to know
- New Jersey prosecutors must waive minimum prison terms for non-violent drug offenses.
- The change means that the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for current and future non-violent drug offenders will be “stopped”, and it is currently serving sentences that may offer an opportunity for early release.
- Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the mandatory conditions were an “outdated policy” that was harming residents and adversely affecting young men of color.
New Jersey prosecutors must waive minimum prison terms for non-violent drug offenses, The state’s Attorney General said in a new directive on Monday.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the mandatory conditions were an “outdated policy” that was harming residents and adversely affecting young men of color.
“We can’t wait any longer. It’s time to act, ” Grewal said.
The ruling calls for the elimination of a minimum sentence for non-violent drug offenses by a State Criminal Sentencing and Disputes Commission in 2019, the same year Grewal himself dismissed them by writing an op-ed. All 21 county prosecutors in the state have also signed a letter supporting this change. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy praised the new directive in a statement.
The change means that implementing mandatory minimum sentences for current and future non-violent drug offenders would be “off the table”, and it is currently serving sentences that are a chance for early release.
Grewal called the directive a reference to the state’s racially disproportionate prison population, stating that mandatory minimums contribute to reducing racial disparities. Black residents account for 14% of the state’s nearly 9 million residents, but 61% of the inmate population according to the Sentencing Commission.
State law requires a sentencing judge to enforce a lengthy period of disqualification of parole for dozens of offenses, including Monday – including non-violent drug offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences are dependent on the offense and are one percent of the total sentence, going from 33% to 85%. Those sentenced for those offenses must serve ineligible periods of parole in prison.
Grewal said the current state law gives prosecutors the authority to waive mandatory minimum conditions.
However, prosecutors may still seek jail terms in some nonviolent drug cases, depending on the circumstances involved, Grewal said.
The change also comes after the state voted to allow a recreational marijuana market for people 21 and older by a margin of 2 to 1.
The new law, enacted in February, means that there is no longer a violation of 6 ounces (170 grams) or less than marijuana or three-fifths of an ounce (17 grams) of hushish. It is not a crime to be under the influence of marijuana or hashish, or to be subject to a marijuana contradiction or to be in possession while driving a car, although there are laws against driving under the influence of drugs.