Impact of Community Corrections in New Jersey:
Reducing Prison Population, Incarceration Cost, and Recidivism

The Reentry Coalition of New Jersey held their annual conference on the Impact of Community Corrections in New Jersey at Rutgers University Newark’s School of Criminal Justice Center for Law and Justice on Thursday, June 16th 2016.

Speakers included Dr. Darcella Sessomes, Assistant Commissioner of the NJ Department of Corrections, Leonard Ward, Director of the Division of Parole and Community Programs, NJ Parole Board, Kevin McHugh, Executive Director of the Re-Entry Coalition of New Jersey, Pat McKernan, Chief Operating Officer Volunteers of America Delaware Valley and President of the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey, Oscar Aviles, Director Hudson County Department of Corrections (Retired), Frank Mazza, Director of Community Reintegration at the Hudson County Department of Corrections, and a statement by Senate President of New Jersey, Stephen Sweeney.

The conference focused on the successes of community corrections and reentry in NJ and it was designed for those who have been doing this important work in our state. It was a celebration of the impact we have collectively made in this successful public-private partnership. The Reentry Coalition, formerly known as the Coalition of Community Corrections Providers of NJ, is a membership organization formed of private agencies that contract with the NJDOC and NJSPB. They include VOADV, Education & Health Centers of America, the Kintock Group, Urban Renewal, NJAC, Opportunities for All, and the GEO Group.

The goal of the conference was to have a meaningful discussion about the history and impact of community corrections in NJ and to discuss strategic goals in removing barriers ex-offenders face when they return home. While New Jersey’s prison population declined 31% between 1999 and 2015, the recidivism rate also declined by 37% between 1994 and 2009. These dramatic declines have focused recognition on New Jersey as a nationwide leader in criminal justice reform.

The four strategic goals that the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey will be focusing their efforts on in the coming year were discussed in the keynote presentation by Pat McKernan, President of the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey and Chief Operating Officer of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley. The goals include ensuring that there are community-based reentry support services for max outs in New Jersey, ensuring that inmates have, at a minimum, a state-issued photo identification card upon release from state prison, addressing and resolving outstanding warrants prior to the inmate’s release from prison to facilitate successful reentry, and ensuring that emergency housing assistance is available to offenders who are homeless upon release from prison or jail.

The event was attended by nearly 200 leaders in the field of reentry throughout New Jersey.

About The Reentry Coalition of New Jersey

The Re-entry Coalition of New Jersey is an organization committed to offender rehabilitation. The Coalition is comprised of agencies providing evidence-based re-entry services to offenders in an effort to promote public safety and reduce the likelihood of offenders returning to the criminal justice system. Residential Community Release Programs (RCRPs) contracted by the Department of Corrections and the State Parole Board have a history of successfully transitioning offenders from prison to the community. In 1976, the Department of Corrections began contracting with community providers for halfway house services. Today, RCRPs provide multiple government agencies with a wide range of evidence-based treatment services -– assessment, substance abuse treatment, gender-based services, work release, outpatient parole services, as well as services to the mentally ill and other specialized populations involved with the New Jersey criminal justice system. All New Jersey RCRPs meet the exacting standards required for American Correctional Association (ACA) or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF) accreditation.

Our mission is to promote evidence-based principles that reduce offender risk through collaboration with community and justice partners, advocacy, education and public policy development.

The Reentry Coalition of New Jersey’s primary goals are to:

Promote public safety through evidence-based system of programs and services;
Expand the array of quality intermediate sanctions;
Develop cost-effective alternatives to incarceration in New Jersey;
Build a network of organizations committed to improving community corrections; and
Engage communities as a part of the solution.



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