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STATE DOC COMMISSIONER COMMITS TO IMPLEMENTING NJT’S FINES AND FEES PLAN STATEWIDE, WORK TOGETHER ON MORE PROGRESS




On March 6th, 2024, sixty-five New Jersey Together clergy and community leaders from Essex Together, Morris Together, and Jersey City Together gathered for a public action with New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark.The purpose of this action was to publicly celebrate Commissioner Kuhn’s commitments to  expand New Jersey Together’s plan to help people clear fines, fees, warrants and other legal entanglements before they are released, to the entire state prison system.  We also committed to work together on further measures on this and other criminal justice issues.


In recent months, leaders from New Jersey Together have focused on the burden created when exorbitant fines, fees, warrants, or detainers are assessed to those returning from prison or jail. In response to NJT pressure, both Hudson and Essex counties have agreed to minimize those fines and fees and to guarantee those leaving prison are better equipped to reenter the mainstream of social, economic, and public life and less likely to be re-incarcerated.


“Fines and fees and outstanding warrants pose significant economic and legal burdens on those reentering communities,” said Essex Together leader Jessica Brater, a member of Bnai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue in Montclair.  “Being able to address those barriers while incarcerated makes it much easier for people to rebuild their lives upon returning.”


Edwin Ortiz, Executive Director of the Returning Citizens Support Group, said, “This was a promising step by the counties, but there is more work to be done to improve conditions in our state and county facilities.”


DOC Commissioner Kuhn has been a constructive ally in NJT efforts and for criminal justice reform more broadly. At the March 6 action, NJT leaders recognized her for her commitments  and other steps she has already taken. These include putting the maintenance fees that people pay while they are in a halfway house into an account they can access upon release. NJT and Commissioner Kuhn also committed to work together to expand the progress on fines and fees as well as other reforms that enable those incarcerated to resume a full and productive life once released. 


Want to get involved with this work? Email NJT at  newjerseytogether@gmail.com.


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