The New Jersey State Parole Board was one of eight State law enforcement agencies and officers honored with the Inaugural Attorney General’s Excellence in Policing Awards during a “virtual” online ceremony last week featuring Governor Phil Murphy and State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The State Parole Board received the Attorney General’s Initiative Award for its Swift, Certain, and Fair supervision program (SCF) that assists parolees addicted to Opioid drugs including heroin.
New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr. said “In 2017, there was an astonishing 24% increase in Opioid-related deaths over the prior year. After recognizing the gravity of this alarming trend and the dire situation faced by parolees addicted to Opioids, we decided that we would attempt to help turn the tide of the endless cycle of addiction, re-arrest, reconviction, re-incarceration and in some cases, hospitalization and even death.”
Beginning in January, 2019, the State Parole Board began enrolling parolees in the SCF supervision program in Ocean County—one of the State’s counties with the highest number of Opioid-induced fatalities—in conjunction with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and the RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery. This coalition’s program later expanded into Monmouth County—another region within the state adversely affected by the Opioid crisis.
Joy Thompson was at a loss.
Her opioid addiction had led to theft, and theft led to prison. She didn’t have a job or an apartment when she got out in 2019, so she was all ears when her parole officer suggested she enroll in a program to help people struggling with addiction.
“It saved my life,” Thompson, 58, told NJ Advance Media. “I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have that.”
Thompson was one of dozens of parolees recently part of New Jersey’s Swift, Certain, and Fair Supervision Program, which put her in constant contact with a social worker and addiction specialists in addition to the officer. The team worked in tandem to help her and others navigate life outside.
New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr. joins Good Day Philadelphia to discuss the program.
That program was New Jersey’s version of Swift, Certain and Fair, a set of principles developed by local governments, academics and nonprofits. The program’s principles stress quick, reasonable and transparent responses to parole offenses, a change from the traditional bureaucracy-laden process that characterizes most of the parole system. Probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their release often wait months for their turn before a parole board or judge. The long pause may be to blame for rampant recidivism. According to Pew Research, a third of the roughly 2.3 million people who exit probation or parole each year do not successfully complete supervision.