Usurping the New Jersey criminal code and the legislative branch of government, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has ordered prosecutors statewide to ignore mandatory minimum prison terms for non-violent drug offenses.
In the old days in America, this process would go through the state legislature and the body of elected representatives across the state would introduce a bill to repeal those laws. The bill would be heard before the state senate and assembly where it would be voted on. That approved bill would be sent to the governor’s desk for signature by the governor which would enact the new law.
That’s how it actually worked, but the legislature did pass a criminal justice reform bill, but the governor vetoed it.
Instead, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal issued a statewide directive to law enforcement instructing prosecutors to waive mandatory parole disqualifiers—commonly known as mandatory minimum prison terms—for non-violent drug offenses, which are still on the books as laws in New Jersey.
Grewal is ordering prosecutors to ignore the laws of the state and release drug dealers back onto the streets.
Here are the charges that will no longer carry mandatory minimums in New Jersey?
- 2C:35-3 Leader of narcotics trafficking network
- 2C:35-4 Maintaining or operating a facility producing a controlled dangerous
- substance (CDS)
- 2C:35-5 Manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing CDS
- 2C:35-6 Employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme
- 2C:35-7 Distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to distribute CDS
- within 1,000 feet of a school
- 2C:35-8 Distribution of CDS to persons under age 18
Directive 2021-4 addresses both current and past cases. Going forward, it directs prosecutors to waive the mandatory minimum terms associated with any non-violent drug offense under New Jersey law. In addition, when requested by an individual who remains in prison solely because of a mandatory minimum term for a non-violent drug offense, prosecutors will file a joint application to rescind the mandatory period of parole ineligibility, so that, in effect, the individual’s modified sentence will be as if no mandatory minimum had been imposed.
“We cannot stand by and ignore the unjust and racially disparate impact of these mandatory minimum terms on non-violent drug offenders—primarily young persons of color,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “It’s been well over a year since the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission unanimously concluded that these mandatory minimums must be eliminated, and still justice is delayed and denied. We are through with waiting. My decision to return the bill on my desk to reflect the Commission’s recommendations is made substantially easier because of Attorney General Grewal’s strong action to stop these unfair prison sentences.”
“It’s been nearly two years since I first joined with all 21 of our state’s County Prosecutors to call for an end to mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It’s been more than a year since the Governor’s bipartisan commission made the same recommendation. And yet New Jerseyans still remain behind bars for unnecessarily long drug sentences. This outdated policy is hurting our residents, and it’s disproportionately affecting our young men of color. We can wait no longer. It’s time to act.”