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Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe.

Re-entry commission releases sweeping report

102-page report recommends healthcare, addiction treatment reforms for former inmates

By Nikita Biryukov, October 22 2019 3:56 pm

Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from McGreevey at 4:23 p.m.

The Reentry Services Commission released a sweeping 102-page report recommending reforms to improve conditions for former offenders once they leave prison.

The 14-member commission’s report focuses on healthcare, addiction treatment, employment, legal services and housing for former offenders.

“The Reentry Services Commission report offers 100 practical ‘action steps’ to improve the lives of those being released from prison,” former Gov. Jim McGreevey said. “Our program participants are 129 times more likely to die from opioid overdose in the first two weeks after release. These recommendations focus on addiction treatment, healthcare, legal issues and employment training.”

The report recommends the creation of a medically-assisted treatment program for inmates with substance use disorders that would begin while they were still incarcerated.

The commission found that just 800 incarcerated individuals were part of a medically-assisted treatment program, while more than a quarter of the 19,000 incarcerated persons in the state’s prison system have an opioid use disorder and more roughly three quarters have a substance use disorder of some kind.

To combat the disparity, the commission recommended the implementation of universal substance abuse disorders screenings for inmates in all correctional facilities at intake. It also recommended broad expansions in the treatment programs.

The commission was co-chaired by McGreevey, State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin and attorney Larry Lustberg.

“While the state has taken significant strides in creating an environment conducive to the rehabilitation of individuals being released from prison, there continue to be significant barriers to successful reentry in healthcare, addiction, employment, legal services, and housing,” Cunningham said. “Formerly incarcerated individuals have significantly higher rates of physical and mental health issues, making access to screening and healthcare during incarceration and to transitional services upon release essential to successful reintegration. This report provides a blueprint for change that will help them succeed.”

The report also recommended coordinating for longer term treatment outside of the jail system once inmates approached their release.

The commission found the largest share of opioid-related deaths for former offenders occurred less than a month after they left prison.

On education, the body recommended jails coordinate with local business, community colleges and peer mentors to provide better job training for inmates once their sentences expired, among other things.

To combat debt incurred by offenders during their term, the commission recommended that all municipal fines be based on income and that those charged with a crime be provided clear notice of public defender fees and the process for the waiving of the same.

It also recommended limitations on child support obligations for incarcerated individuals.

In 2005, the New Jersey Institute for Social justice found the average incarcerated parent left prison with a child support debt of $20,000, a debt that could be crippling given the limited job prospects for former offenders.

“You know, there’s no one in this room that doesn’t know someone that has a mental illness, that has a drug problem, that has an alcohol problem, and I think it’s finally ok for us to talk about this issues,” Pintor Marin said. “Now, the important thing is how do we find the resources … to make sure that our programs are running and have the adequate funding.”

Because of the prevalence of hepatitis B and C, the commission’s report recommended implementing comprehensive testing for all inmates and treatment programs for those who tested positive.

Inmates should be pre-enrolled in Medicaid at least 60 days before their release and providing former inmates with prescribed medicines for up to 90 days following the same.

The report recommended doubling funding for the state’s Rental Assistance Program, from $40 million to $80 million and designing a housing voucher program dedicated to serving the re-entry population along with continued investments in New Jersey’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The commission also urged the passage of five pieces of legislation on the state level.

It said the state must pass the Earn Your Way Out Act of 2019, which would create the Division of Reentry and Rehabilitation Services, which would develop an inmate reentry plan.

It also urged the passage of a bill that would broaden the list of non-violent offenses eligible for expungement. Such a bill has been the subject of a relatively-slight political feud between Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders.

The commission said the state should also pass bills eliminating the “good moral character” requirement from professional and occupational boards considering licensing for former inmates, ensuring women inmates are provided with feminine hygiene products and creating processes to identify Medicaid-eligible incarcerated individuals who are awaiting release, being released or undergoing medical treatment.

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One thought on “Re-entry commission releases sweeping report

  1. McGreevey and others like him and aligned with him are basically playing with the matter of prisoner reentry

    This is what I posted on my page for project heuristic at http://www.Facebook.com/ProjectHEURISTIC about that article

    “The report recommends the creation of a medically-assisted treatment program for inmates with substance use disorders that would begin while they were still incarcerated.”

    This is yet another example of McGreevey and those aligned with him literally and shamelessly using the desperate need for reentry services as a backdoor into the very lucrative world of Medicaid and insurance dollars for drug treatment. The New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC) is not and never was truly about prisoner reentry services (because there is no real money in such services) but, instead, has been a smoke screen to cover for the aim at Medicaid and insurance dollars. Filing for its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with the IRS, the NJRC does not state that it’s a prisoner reentry services but that it’s a drug treatment program. Although there is no doubt that a tremendous number of incarcerated and court involved persons with drug and alcohol use that may have contributed to their criminal behavior, relatively few are the addicts being portrayed as needing medically assisted treatment as a part of their reentry to the community. What those men and women actually need is assistance to address the real root of their criminal and addicting behavior … drug use is only a symptom and it is a flagrant and blatant and self serving fraud on taxpayers and naive people for McGreevey and cohorts to make addiction treatment out as such a prominent need. The prominent need is absolutely not medically assisted treatment. The prominent need is absolutely fundamental reentry assistance.

    McGreevey certainly deserves credit for ushering in the palatability of reentry as a conversation in the NJ legislature but he has been and continues to be doing a disservice to the tremendous and desperate need that both court involved persons and the general public needs. I was once a foolish, naive, and ardent supporter and defender of his accomplishment in having reentry services but I had not looked beyond the smoke and mirrors until much later. His politicking and manipulation smacks a resemblance of the controversy surrounding his disgracefully and embarrassing resignation as Governor of the State of New Jersey.

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