In New Jersey, the provisions regarding pardon and parole are provided under N.J. Stat. § 30:4-91.7 through § 30:4-123.76, N.J. Stat. §§ 2A:167-3.1 through 2A:167-12, and N.J. Const., Art. V, Sec. II, Para. 1 through Art. V, Sec. II, Para. 2. Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.47, a State Parole Board (“Board”) is created and established within the Department of Corrections. It will consist of a chairman, 14 associate members, and three alternate board members who are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Duties of the Board
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.48 provides that all policies and determinations of the Board will be made by the majority vote of the members. The Board can promulgate such reasonable rules and regulations that are necessary for the proper discharge of its responsibilities. The Board should transmit a report of its work for the preceding fiscal year, including information on the causes and extent of parole recidivism, to the Governor, the Legislature and the Juvenile Justice Commission annually. The report also includes relevant information on compliance with established time frames in the processing of parole eligibility determinations, the effectiveness of any pertinent legislative or administrative measures, and any recommendations to enhance board operations. The Board should give public notice prior to considering any adult inmate for release. The Board should also give notice to the appropriate prosecutor’s office and to the committing court prior to the initial consideration of any juvenile inmate for release.
Grounds for release on Parole
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.51 provides that each adult inmate sentenced to a term of incarceration in a county penal institution, or to a specific term of years at the State Prison or the correctional institution for women will become primarily eligible for parole after having served any judicial or statutory mandatory minimum term, or one-third of the sentence imposed where no mandatory minimum term has been imposed less commutation time for good behavior.
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.51, each adult inmate sentenced to a term of life imprisonment will become primarily eligible for parole after having served any judicial or statutory mandatory minimum term, or 25 years where no mandatory minimum term has been imposed less commutation time for good behavior and credits for diligent application to work and other institutional assignments. If an inmate sentenced to a specific term or terms of years is eligible for parole on a date later than the date upon which he would be eligible if a life sentence had been imposed, then in such case the inmate shall be eligible for parole after having served 25 years, less commutation time for good behavior and credits for diligent application to work and other institutional assignments.
Each inmate sentenced to a specific term of years pursuant to the “Controlled Dangerous Substances Act,” will become primarily eligible for parole after having served one-third of the sentence imposed less commutation time for good behavior and credits for diligent application to work and other institutional assignments[i].
Conditions for Parole
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.51b, a person who has been sentenced to a term of parole supervision and is on release status in the community will during the term of parole supervision, remain on release status in the community, in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. The offender will be supervised by the Division of Parole of the Board as if on parole, and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions set by the appropriate Board panel. The Board should promulgate rules and regulations necessary to carry out the purposes of this act pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act.” If the parolee violates a condition of a special sentence of parole supervision for life, the parolee can be returned to prison. Upon the parolee’s release from prison, the parolee should continue to serve the special sentence of parole supervision for life until released by the Superior Court.
Authority of the Board
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.55a provides that the Board should provide in writing to the prosecutor of a notice of consideration of parole release required to be provided to victims by the Board pursuant and notice of the filing by an inmate of any application for commutation of sentence and its disposition. Notice should also include the inmate’s name and identifying information.
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.58 any denial of parole by a Board panel will, in accordance with criteria established by the Board, be appealable to the full Board by the inmate or one acting on the inmate’s behalf. If appealed, the full Board should decide the appeal except that any Board member who participated in the decision from which the appeal is taken may not participate in the disposition of that appeal. The Board should serve written notice on all parties providing the decision, the particular reasons for the decision, and the facts relied on.
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.58 provides that the Board can upon its own initiative and for good cause, in a timely manner, review the decision of any hearing officer, Board member, or Board panel and take appropriate action.
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.60 any parolee who has seriously or persistently violated the conditions of his/her parole can have his/her parole revoked and can be returned to custody. The Board should be notified immediately upon the arrest or indictment of a parolee or upon the filing of charges that the parolee committed an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime. The Board should not revoke parole on the basis of new charges which have not resulted in a disposition at the trial level except that upon application by the prosecuting authority, the Juvenile Justice Commission when the chairman determines that the new charges against the parolee are of a serious nature and it appears that the parolee otherwise poses a danger to the public safety. In such cases, a parolee should be informed that, if s/he testifies at the revocation proceedings, his/her testimony and the evidence derived should not be used against him/her in a subsequent criminal prosecution or delinquency adjudication. Any parolee who is convicted of a crime or adjudicated delinquent for an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime, committed while on parole will have his/her parole revoked and will be returned to custody unless the parolee demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence at a hearing that good cause exists why s/he should not be returned to confinement[ii].
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.61 provides that if the parole officer assigned to supervise a parolee has probable cause to believe that the parolee has violated a condition of his/her parole, such violation not being a basis for return to custody the officer can require that the parolee appear before a designated representative of the Board for a review of the parolee’s adjustment. If the Board’s designated representative finds that a parolee has violated a condition of his/her parole, such violation not being a basis for return to custody, the designated representative will subject the parolee to one or both of the actions. A parolee or the parolee’s assigned parole officer should apply to the Board’s designated representative for modification of the conditions of parole. Any action to modify the conditions of parole and any forfeiture of commutation time credits can be appealable to the appropriate Board panel, which may take appropriate action but need not conduct a hearing[iii].
N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.76 provides that any inmate released who violates the conditions of parole will be required to serve in custody a term equal to twice the period by which parole was accelerated by virtue of a declaration of a correctional facilities overcrowding state of emergency and will not be eligible for any future acceleration.
N.J. Stat. § 2A:167-3.1 provides that the Governor will report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the name of the convicted person, the crime for which the person was convicted, the sentence imposed, its date, the date of the pardon, reprieve or commutation and the reasons for granting same. Pursuant to N.J. Const., Art. V, Sec. II, Para. 1, the Governor can grant pardons and reprieves in all cases other than impeachment and treason, and can suspend and remit fines and forfeitures. A commission or other body can be established by law to aid and advice the Governor in the exercise of executive clemency.
[i] N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.51.
[ii] N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.60.
[iii] N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.61