Murphy asks NJ commission to examine racial and ethnic disparities in criminal sentencing

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today announced that he is convening the New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission to examine racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s criminal justice system.

In 2009, the New Jersey Legislature established the 13-member commission, but Governor Chris Christie never appointed members and the commission never met.

“New Jersey has the nation’s worst disparity in the rates of incarceration between black and white offenders,” Murphy said. “We can and must do better. A Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission can undertake the important review of our sentencing laws and recommend reforms necessary to ensure a stronger, fairer, and more just state.”

Deborah Poritz

In addition to reconstituting the commission, Murphy also announced the appointment of two members: former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah Poritz of Princeton, and Jiles Ship. Poritz served as an attorney general  and a chief justice during her career. Ship is the former president of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives a current member of the New Jersey Police Training Commission, and previously served as a member of the Edison Police Department.

Jiles Ship

Legislative leaders will appoint four members to the Commission. The commission will also include the attorney general, the public defender, the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, the chairman of the State Parole Board, the president of the New Jersey County Prosecutors Association, and the president of the New Jersey Bar Association. These officials all have the option of appointing a designee to serve in their place.

“We must make sure that  New Jersey’s criminal justice system adheres to the basic principles of fairness, proportionality and public safety,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Sound sentencing policies and a deliberative review of the standards that help determine what sentences are imposed are important to a judicial system that doesn’t just aspire to our ideals of justice, but meets them. This Commission will serve a role in identifying and correcting any racial or ethnic injustices in the system. Justice must be free of bias to maintain the trust and confidence of the people.”

The Commission will issue a report to the governor’s office and the legislature within a year of its first meeting.