Legislation authored by Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator Nick Scutari that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for all nonviolent offenses was approved by a Senate committee today. The bill, S-3456, that would follow through on the “blueprint for reform” provided by the New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee 7-0.
Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti will sponsor a companion measure in the Assembly.
“Sentencing reforms are a crucial piece of the greater effort to bring more social justice to the legal system and to society,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson), who served on the commission. “Judicial discretion is needed to best determine the appropriate level of punishment. We have to return decision-making to the courts for matching an individual’s punishment to account for the nature and circumstances of the crime.”
“As we continue to bring more fairness to the justice system we must move away from imposing lengthy sentences for minor offenses and tying the hands of judges,” said Senator Scutari (D-Union), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “By removing mandatory minimums on non-violent offenses we can return the discretionary power back to our judges and allow them to issue sentences based on what is truly in the best interest of the individual and society.”
“At the end of the day, the judge in the case is in the best position to understand the unique facts to determine what the individual’s punishment should be,” said Assemblyman Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Mandatory minimums are a way for politicians to look like they’re tough on crime. We’re not in the courtroom, and we should defer to the judges.”