Prisoner Reentry Facility Opens in Jersey City

By Christie Duffy

The center’s new executive director and former Gov. Jim McGreevey called today’s ribbon cutting a celebration of second chances.

Named for Martin Luther King, Martin’s Place is meant as a transitional stop for those leaving prison, the jobless and the addicted.

A U.S. senator, four governors and three members of Congress attended the grand opening, including Democratic leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

“Martin’s Place is of national significance. So anther reason I’m here is to say thank you because you’re not only helping people here, but across the country because you are serving as a model that this can be done,” Pelosi said.

Martin’s Place is meant to cut down on the state’s recidivism rate. And provide hope.

The center will offer first treatment, then transitional housing and finally an opportunity for those reentering our society to get a job.

Training will be a part of the program and the city plans to place ex-prisoners directly onto the growing number of construction sites around the city.

As Jersey City looks to provide resources for those recently returning to society, Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature recently acted on the need to provide help in the earliest stages of the corrections process, posing the question of who should be allowed on the street and when.

“The fact is a judge in our state system is currently not allowed to consider a prior violent criminal record and dangerousness to that community by releasing someone and has to give them bail. That’s wrong too,” Christie said.

“We must do away with mandatory minimum sentencing. We must do away with three strikes and you’re out because we are putting people in prison in an unjustified way. And as Gov. Christie said, give the judges the discretion,” said Pelosi.

“They both talked about elimination of mandatory sentencing which here in areas like Jersey City and some tougher areas we certainly know would be a benefit if judges had discretion,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

The issue of providing room for judges’ discretion will be on the ballot for voters to decide this November. Specifically, voters will decide if judges should be allowed to deny violent offenders bail at all. Also a part of the recent reforms is providing bail alternatives for non-violent offenders who cannot afford to leave jail.

“We have literally thousands of people who are in New Jersey right now in the equivalent of debtors prison. Because for a minimal bail of $250 in cash they could be bailed out, but so many of our folks don’t have $250 in cash, don’t know someone who has $250 in cash. Not right. That’s debtors prison and that’s not what this state is supposed to be about,” Christie said.