VAN DREW WANTS TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE IN NO EARLY RELEASE ACT : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
VAN DREW WANTS TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE IN NO EARLY RELEASE ACT
MILLVILLE — State Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Matt Milam have joined forces to introduce legislation that would require violent offenders sentenced under the No Early Release Act to serve the mandated 85 percent of their sentence behind prison bars.
A “loophole” came to light last month when their legislative colleague, Assemblyman Nelson Albano, was notified by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office that the man who killed his son Michael was being considered for admission to a residential community release program.
At first, Albano said, he thought it was a mistake because Carlos Rosado, who was sentenced under the No Early Release Act, was about a year away from parole eligibility.
After some phone calls, Albano was furious when he learned the state Department of Corrections allows violent offenders to leave prison up to two years ahead of their parole eligibility date if they have a good behavioral record, a positive psychological exam and a review board’s approval.
Corrections officials noted the inmates are not being “released” when they enter community programs because they remain under the purview of the department.
“This is unacceptable, this is a violation of the rights for victims,” Albano, D-1, said. “This is not just about my case anymore. It’s about all the victims in this state who believe their offenders will be punished and serve 85 percent of their time behind bars.”
Albano estimated “hundreds” of violent offenders sentenced under the No Early Release Act could be in community release programs at any time. He added it’s not only a matter of justice, but public safety as well.
Because he has a personal interest in the matter, Albano couldn’t introduce legislation to address the issue. So his legislative colleagues, both Democrats who represent the 1st Legislative District, are taking on the fight. They said they already have bipartisan support in Trenton.
Their proposed amendment to the No Early Release Act spells out in “plain words” that 85 percent of the offender’s sentence must be served “behind bars,” Albano said.
This is just about cleaning a loophole,” Milam said, noting the community release program was not meant for those sentenced under the No Early Release Act. , The program was instituted about 10 years ago.
Van Drew first met Albano when he was a father demanding jail time for repeat drunken drivers, after the death of his son in a car crash in Vineland. Those efforts resulted in “Michael’s Law.”
The fight for justice continues, Van Drew said.
The draft legislation is getting final review by the Office of Legislative Services to make sure it will not inadvertently harm those who would be served by the community release program, he said.
Families who reached out to Albano as a legislator were willing to back him up.
Donnah Marvel of Somers Point, who lost her son in a hit-and-run, and Sherri Branca of Egg Harbor Township, who lost her son to a drunken driver, stood at Albano’s side as Milam and Van Drew announced the legislation.
Branca noted the person who killed her son isn’t up for parole until 2017. She hopes the proposed legislation will eliminate the possibility of the offender going into a community release program prior to the parole date.
“It’s a concern, it makes me feel very angry,” she said. “Our children were taken away from us, and these people are going to get released early? No, we are going fight and do whatever we have to do to keep them behind bars.”
If things proceed without a hitch, the change could become law by the end of the year, Albano said. He hopes the public will help by writing letters of support.
It would provide some comfort to Branca to know the person who killed her son won’t be released from prison before 2017.
“No sooner, no way,” she said.
“I want this to pass,” Marvel said. “What’s the point of the No Early Release Act if they are not going be in jail?’