UNION, NJ — A panel of leading experts in corrections and law called for new approaches to criminal justice reform in New Jersey during a panel hosted by Kean University.
The lecture, hosted by the College of Business and Public Management, featured former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, former state Attorney General John J. Farmer Jr. and other top speakers.
Panelists discussed current problems in the corrections system and changes that would help formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society.
“This is one of the few issues on the American landscape where Republicans and Democrats can actually agree,” said McGreevey, now the executive director of the New Jersey Reentry Corp., which provides services to those seeking to reenter society after incarceration.
“The criminal justice system doesn’t look at reconstructing the life of the victim or the perpetrator,” McGreevey said.
The event, “Reforming the Correctional System,” offered Kean students a window into the field of criminal justice and corrections. Other panelists included Kean School of Criminal Justice and Public Administration Executive Director Patrick McManimon, a former corrections administrator and warden; John Koufos, a criminal justice advocate and former attorney who helps companies optimize second-chance hiring and hire those with criminal records; and Charlie McKenna, an attorney and former chief counsel to Gov. Chris Christie.
Panelists cited statistics to paint a picture of the situation: More than 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States; the recidivism rate in the United States is 60 percent; it costs more than $25,000 per year to keep someone incarcerated.
“What we’re doing now isn’t working,” McManimon said.
The experts said preparing people to be able to find jobs when they leave prison by providing training in a marketable skill is key to individuals’ success.
“Often, the people who come to prison simply need a chance,” McManimon said.
The audience included both graduate and undergraduate Kean University students from criminal justice and other majors. Attendees were impressed by the presentation.
“I loved it,” said Geena Santomo, a second-year doctoral student in occupational therapy, who said she plans to focus her residency work on creating a program for reentry for former prisoners.
“I think the perspectives were insightful and eye-opening,” she said. “We look at this as something separate from us, but really it is impacting everybody.”
Kean graduate student Ken Bae, who is in his first year pursuing his master’s degree in social work, said it was good to see speakers with powerful backgrounds take on the issue.
“They’re laying the groundwork,” he said.
Photo Courtesy of Kean University