The New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission has recommended reforms to sentencing guidelines for certain crimes. These changes may make up for past “tough on crime” policies that have resulted in racial and ethnic disparities and crowded state prisons. 

The Commission has suggested that the legislature enact several laws to ease the state’s strict sentencing rules. 

Changes to mandatory minimum sentences  

One of the major proposed reforms involves the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug and property crimes. The suggested reforms also include mandatory minimum sentence reduction for second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery, as these offenses do not result in physical injury to others. The Commission suggests that these sentencing changes be retroactive so that inmates currently serving time have the right to seek early release. 

Introduction of a mitigating factor for youth  

The Commission recommends giving courts the authority to use youth as a mitigating factor. This could reduce the length of a sentence for a defendant who was younger than 26 years old at the time of his or her offense. The Commission also believes that courts should have the discretion to reduce sentences for low-risk juvenile offenders who show personal growth and rehabilitation. 

Creation of a compassionate release program 

The Commission suggests that the state create a compassionate release program for inmates with a terminal medical diagnosis or permanent physical incapacity. This recommendation includes a new “grave medical condition” category for an inmate who has 12 months to live or, for preceding three-month period, was unable to handle the demands of basic daily life. 

If you or a family member is currently serving a sentence in state prison, you may find it helpful to be familiar with sentencing guidelines. You can learn more on our criminal defense webpage.