Stuck in Jail With No Way Out [POLL/AUDIO]
As part of an effort to reform New Jersey's criminal justice system, key members of the state legislature are working with the Christie administration on bail reform.
"Under our current system, some people are behind bars on minor charges for long periods of time because they can't make bail, and then you have some people who might have a lot of money from criminal behavior who are incarcerated, but get out immediately because they do have the money," said state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) during a prisoner re-entry conference in Jersey City.
When people are stuck in prison, she said, "it just breeds more anger, more desperation, and when people become desperate they forget about doing the right thing."
Cunningham added "in this country we incarcerate more than we need to incarcerate; we're paying $37,000 to $40,000 a year to incarcerate one person."
She also said when people spend long periods of time locked up, they not only lose their jobs but sometimes their family support system.
"We don't want to warehouse people, we want people to come out of incarceration, and to be able to be trained and find meaningful employment," she said. "People want to have a productive life. There's a certain amount of self-respect that comes with doing those things, providing for your family, and even if you've made a mistake you need the option to be able to do that."
Cunningham also said right now it's not certain whether the legislation being crafted will contain a provision to disqualify certain people from getting bail who commit very violent and serious crimes.