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NJACA Newsletter February 2014

Looking Back: NJACA Spring Conference 2013
The New Jersey Chapter of the American Correctional Association proudly presented their spring conference at the National Conference Center at the Holiday Inn at East Windsor on April 26, 2013.  The conference entitled “Impacting Jail Recidivism:  Strength in Partnerships” brought out 125 attendees to hear how county jails are working to manage mental health and substance abuse needs of inmates across New Jersey. 
Gretchen Raring of Jewish Family Services of Atlantic County, Stacey Dix-Kielbiolwski Court Liaison to Hudson County Department of Corrections and Anthony Towns of Greater Trenton Behavioral Health presented how each of their organizations is working closely with their county jails to improve outcomes for jail inmates presenting with mental health problems.  Steve Fishbein of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services moderated this discussion.
The documentary earned a spot at the Sundance Film Festival and traced McGreevey’s steps from his political career to his role now at the Hudson County Jail through Integrity House working with incarcerated women.  Oscar Aviles, the Director of the Hudson County Department of Corrections introduced his panelists and partners in Hudson County working on improving discharge planning for jail inmates.  Hudson County leads the way in forging successful partnerships that will enable former inmates to be successful when returning to the community.

NJACA honored individuals for their 25 years of membership and thanked them for their longstanding commitment to professionalism in the corrections field.  Among those honored were Bill Burrell, John Paitakes, Sherry MacPherson, Dennis Sherman, and Chip Vaughn.

Psychiatric Help Provided to Inmates Without Leaving Correctional Facility Walls
The days of a jail inmate in psychiatric crisis being taken to an emergency room and waiting for hours - or sometimes days - to be treated have been eliminated thanks to the growing use of telepsychiatry to treat mental health needs.This technology allows for an inmate to be seen by a psychiatrist without ever leaving the facility through the use of cameras, television monitors and remote on-call physicians who can be available within minutes. CFG Health Systems, LLC provides telepsychiatry services to several New Jersey correctional facilities. Nationwide, approximately 120 correctional and medical facilities in 13 states have contracted with CFG for telepsychiatry and telemedicine services.

"It is an incredible cost-savings measure and eliminates the wait in getting treatment to the patient," said Dr. James Varrell, CFG's president and medical director. "In correctional facilities, it also cuts down on personnel costs and greatly reduces the safety risk to the transporting officers, the emergency room personnel and the public at large."

Not only does telepsychiatry benefit inmates who are truly undergoing a psychiatric episode, Dr. Varrell said, but it also prevents an unnecessary trip for those inmates who do not legitimately need to be transported for such care.

For more information on the correctional telemedicine and telepsychiatry services provided by CFG, visit
Submitted by: Jeanine P. Miles, MS, LPC

              The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA): 
An Overview
  The Prison Rape Elimination  Act was created in 2003. The intent of the Act is the prevention, detection, and response to sexual victimization across incarcerated populations. Since 2003, several committees and advisory groups were solicited for input on operational concerns and costs for implementation.   In Spring 2012, final regulations were published in the Federal Register. The regulations became immediately effective for all federal facilities. State and county facilities, municipal lock ups, community facilities and juvenile facilities are required to achieve compliance according to a staggered schedule. These facilities will be subject to an audit schedule with three annual cycles. For the period of August 2013 through August 2014, one third of these facilities must achieve compliance. The remaining two thirds must come into compliance during the subsequent two cycles through August 2016 Non compliance could  result in a ‘give back’ of 5% of all federal funds awarded to these departments. If found non-compliant with any standard, the agency will be granted a 180 day ‘grace period’ to come into compliance.

PREA standards simply reflect what has come to be accepted as good correctional practice across the country. Of particular note are two standards that will impact facility operations. First,  following  a staggered schedule, a prohibition against cross gender ‘pat frisks’ will be implemented, regarding female inmates. Specifically, male custody staff will be prohibited from conducting ‘pat frisks’ on female inmates. Second, all offenders under the age of eighteen must be kept separate (i.e.  sight and sound) from offenders age 18 and over.  
Existing policies and internal management procedures will require revision which incorporates specific PREA standards. In some cases, new policies will need to be created. Only Department of Justice certified PREA auditors will conduct facility audits.

Submitted by: Sherry Sandler, NJ State Parole Board

New Jersey Bail Reform

Bail reform in New Jersey is perceived by many to be a long overdue and a topic of increasing political relevance—in his State of the State address on January 14th, Governor Christie called for a constitutional amendment allowing for the absolute detention of pretrial arrestees who pose an unacceptable threat to public safety.
Relying on money bail as the primary mechanism for pretrial release promotes a system in which dangerous individuals with financial resources are able to easily secure their freedom, while others who pose no risk often languish behind bars for months.
A report released earlier this year found that county jails in our state are overflowing with individuals awaiting trial, 40 percent of whom are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail. These findings, coupled with the Governor's remarks, present a unique opportunity for a truly bipartisan and urgently necessary overhaul of the bail system.
Senator Norcross and Assemblyman Burzichelli have introduced companion pieces of legislation (S946 and A1910) that would identify candidates for pretrial release using a risk assessment instrument and provide the court with a range of nonmonetary conditions to best ensure appearance in court and community safety. It would also permit absolute detention orders for arrestees who pose an unacceptable risk.
To learn more about the movement to reform New Jersey’s bail system and for ways to get involved please click here.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Thompson, J.D., Drug Policy Alliance

Benefits for New Jersey Residents
with Drug Convictions

Frequently Asked Questions

Getting needed social services and support can be particularly challenging for people with drug convictions. A number of federal and state laws make these individuals ineligible for certain types of assistance or place significant barriers in the way of getting assistance. These laws make it difficult for those who need help to reintegrate into their communities, access social services and rebuild their lives. This factsheet answers common questions about eligibility for three of the most helpful social support programs: Food Stamps/SNAP, Cash Assistance/GA and Medicaid.

Can People With Drug Convictions Get Food Stamps/SNAP?
Yes. Previously known as Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that provides nutritional assistance to low-income individuals and families. In 1996, the federal government created a restriction denying nutritional assistance to anyone convicted of a federal or state drug possession or distribution felony. The federal government allows states to opt out of or modify the restriction.
Fortunately, New Jersey opted out of the restriction on Food Stamps/SNAP for those with drug convictions.ii Thus, people with drug convictions, whether for possession or distribution, are eligible for SNAP as long as they meet the program’s other eligibility requirements.

Can People With Children get Cash Assistance/TANF If They Have Drug Convictions?
Yes. WorkFirst New Jersey provides temporary cash assistance to eligible families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides federal money to states in the form of block grants. Federal restrictions deny cash assistance to anyone convicted of a federal or state felony involving the possession, use, or distribution of drugs. The federal government allows states to opt out of or modify the restriction.
Fortunately, New Jersey has opted out of the restriction on TANF benefits. Thus, families headed by individuals who have drug convictions for possession, use or distribution are eligible for TANF benefits.

Can Single People Without Children get Cash Assistance/GA If They Have Drug Convictions?
Yes, if the convictions were for possession or use of drugs and they enroll in and complete a licensed residential drug treatment program.
WorkFirst New Jersey provides temporary cash assistance to single people and childless couples through the General Assistance (GA) program.v GA is funded entirely by state dollars.
New Jersey state law denies GA to people with convictions for offenses involving possession or use of drugs unless they enroll in and complete a licensed residential drug treatment program. Thus, single people without children can reestablish their eligibility for GA if they enroll in a licensed residential drug treatment and undergo drug testing while in the program and for a 60-day period after completion. A failed drug test while in treatment or during the 60-day period directly following will terminate eligibility. People wishing to reestablish their eligibility for GA in this way must supply proof of treatment from the program. Participating in or completing any other type of drug program, including methadone or Intensive Outpatient (IOP), does not reestablish eligibility for GA.

No, if the convictions were for drug distribution. New Jersey State law denies GA to single people without children if they have been convicted of any drug distribution offenses.

Can People With Drug Convictions Get Medicaid?
Yes, as of January 1, 2014
. Prior to January 1, 2014 individuals had to be eligible for WorkFirst New Jersey/GA in order to qualify for Medicaid. This requirement created a bar to Medicaid for many individuals with drug convictions because New Jersey State law disqualified them from WorkFirst New Jersey/GA.
The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change this beginning January 1, 2014. Under the ACA, WorkFirst New Jersey/GA will be “delinked” from Medicaid. Since Medicaid is a federal program with no bar for past drug convictions, individuals with any type of past drug conviction will be eligible for Medicaid as long as they meet Medicaid’s other eligibility requirements.

Submitted by: Drug Policy Alliance


Fugitive Safe Surrender Sets New Record: Nearly 5,000 Peacefully Surrendered to Resolve Approximately 10,000 Nonviolent Warrants
Striking Turnout Makes FSS-Jersey City the Largest Such Event Held in New Jersey, Third-Largest in the Nation
New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a record-breaking total of 4,587 individuals voluntarily and peacefully turned themselves in at Fugitive Safe Surrender, to resolve an estimated total of approximately 10,000 nonviolent criminal and civil warrants between Wednesday, November 6 and Saturday, November 9 at Evangelismos Church in Jersey City.
This striking result represents the highest turnout of all five Fugitive Safe Surrender events held so far in New Jersey.   (The previous record was set at New Jersey’s second FSS event, held 2009 in Newark).   With this event, a total of nearly 18,000 individuals have turned themselves in at New Jersey’s five Fugitive Safe Surrender opportunities.
The FSS event in Jersey City also had the third-highest turnout of the 26 Fugitive Safe Surrender events held nationwide since 2005, surpassed only by those held in the much larger cities of Cleveland (where 7,200 fugitives surrendered in 2010) and Detroit (where 6,578 surrendered in 2008).
“This Fugitive Safe Surrender event was a tremendous, record-breaking success that will touch thousands of lives for the better – not just the nearly 5,000 individuals who surrendered, but the lives of their loved ones and fellow New Jerseyans,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “By offering favorable consideration, not amnesty, New Jersey has helped an astounding 18,000 individuals begin to build new lives through Fugitive Safe Surrender.  This is exactly the sort of collaborative partnership that helps break the cycle of unlawful behavior and makes our communities safer.”
New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis said, “The number of peaceful surrenders has exceeded our expectations and resulted in the third-largest Fugitive Safe Surrender event in the nation.  Every single individual who took advantage of this program has made New Jersey safer.  The former fugitives can finally walk in public without the fear that they will be stopped by law enforcement.  This in turn frees up police resources that can better be used on other public safety matters.”
One success story from this Fugitive Safe Surrender event is that of Dessaix Maurissette, 25, a Jersey City resident who was wanted on multiple warrants for which he owed more than $2,000 due to traffic violations.  Mr. Maurissette said he had paid surcharges but struggled to pay the total amount owed in multiple municipalities. 
Mr. Maurissette said, “I realized it’s time to plan for my future, and to stop being held back by expensive mistakes made when I was younger.  I plan to get married and start a family someday.  I realized I can no longer live with the fear that I might get pulled over and taken to jail while trying to drive my wife to deliver a baby, or driving to pick up diapers.  Fugitive Safe Surrender gave me my future.  I was able to resolve my matters with a single, $100 payment, clear my warrants, and finally breathe as a free person.”

Another success story is that of Eddie Restrepo. Mr. Restrepo, 33, of West New York, lived in fear for years under the weight of multiple unpaid traffic tickets. But after he turned himself into the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program in Jersey City Wednesday morning, he walked away a free man with a clean record.  Mr. Restrepo expected to pay thousands in fines but instead paid only a few hundred to resolve his warrants. After completing the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, he immediately decided to help out and has been volunteering at the program since Wednesday.
“This really saved my life,” Mr. Restrepo said. “It was a load off my back. I felt free.”
Fugitive Safe Surrender offered favorable consideration, not amnesty, to U.S. citizens and legal residents who were wanted on warrants for non-violent criminal or municipal matters.
The final results of the Fugitive Safe Surrender initiative held in Jersey City are as follows:

  • A total of 4,587 individuals surrendered at Fugitive Safe Surrender between Wednesday, November 6 and Saturday, November 9.  They resolved an estimated total of approximately 8,000  non-violent warrants.      
  • This is the highest turnout of all five Fugitive Safe Surrender events held in New Jersey, and brings New Jersey’s FSS total to 17,863 individuals who surrendered. (A total of 2,245 surrendered at FSS-Camden in 2008, 4,103 at FSS-Newark in 2009, 3,901 at FSS-Somerset/New Brunswick in 2010, and 3,027 at FSS-Atlantic City in 2012).                                       
  • This is the third-highest turnout of the 26 Fugitive Safe Surrender events held nationwide. In addition, New Jersey’s five events rank third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh among those held nationwide.  The first and second place still belong to Cleveland and Detroit, two of America’s largest cities. 
The economic impact:
  • A total of approximately $40,000 in municipal and superior court income was collected during the four-day event.                                                                  
  • More will be collected as hundreds of overflow cases are heard this week.  Still more will be collected on a scheduled basis from those assigned payment plans.   
  • In addition, each person who surrenders represents an estimated savings of $500 to local governments.  This very conservative estimate is based on the police and jail costs involved in processing someone wanted on a municipal traffic warrant.                                       
  • Additional economic benefits follow when the former fugitives become eligible to apply for driver’s license reinstatement, and the employment and other opportunities that come with having a state-issued identification and privilege to drive.                              
  • Still greater intangible benefits result when individuals are free to stop hiding from the law and to become contributing members of their families and society.
Other statistics:
  • Of the nearly 5,000 who surrendered, only two were taken into custody.  This is because the vast majority of participants were wanted for non-violent matters and had no violent criminal history.                                    
  • An estimated 63 percent were wanted for traffic warrants.                                                                    
  • An estimated 33 percent were wanted for misdemeanor criminal warrants.                                   
  • An estimated 4 percent were wanted for child support, family court, or probation warrants.                              
  • A number estimated atless than one percent were wanted for felony warrants
Fugitive Safe Surrender was made possible by a partnership led by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey State Parole Board, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Department of Corrections, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Office of Information Technology, and New Jersey Transit. 

Key partners included Sheriff Michael Saudino, Bergen County, Sheriff Frank Schillari, Hudson County and Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik, Passaic County along with members of their staff.
Submitted by: David Thomas, Executive Director, NJ State Parole Board

Copyright © 2014 New Jersey Chapter of the American Correctional Association, All rights reserved.

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