SOCIAL ISSUES

How New Jersey is reducing its prison population

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

New Jersey has become a national leader in reducing the prison population. According to the state Department of Corrections, at the peak 20 years ago, there were more than 31,000 inmates in the state. Today, that number is closer to 19,000.

Experts say part of the state’s success is attributed to the fact that about one-fourth of the current inmate population will get help once they’re on the outside.

One place helping these former inmates reenter society is Volunteers of America Delaware Valley’s Hope Hall in Camden, which is marking its 20th anniversary. In that time, more than 8,000 men have gone through the halfway house program.

To qualify, inmates have to be within 18 to 24 months of their parole eligibility date. There’s case management, drug and alcohol counseling, they help people find jobs, save money, find housing — anything you can think of to successfully reintegrate back into society. As a result, Hope Hall’s graduates are less likely to find themselves back in prison.