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Gov. Phil Murphy revamps clemency process in New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy revamps clemency process in New Jersey
Gov. Phil Murphy revamps clemency process in New Jersey 02:22

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new clemency initiative Wednesday he said will reform the state's criminal justice system. 

Murphy, who signed the executive order at St. James A.M.E. Church in Newark, said the state is reaching a major milestone in how applications for clemency are handled.

"We have not as of today pardoned anyone and the reason we haven't is we have felt strongly we needed an objective, fair, transparent, system that would underpin whatever pardons we made," Murphy said.

Certain people will be prioritized, including: 

  • Victims of domestic or sexual violence or sex trafficking who are incarcerated for a crime against the perpetrator
  • People with certain non-violent convictions who have stayed out of the justice system for a certain period of time
  • Those serving sentences "that reflect an excessive trial penalty" 

"We and I are looking for individuals who have been rehabilitated and could be giving back to communities, but are instead unjustly held back by the criminal system," Murphy said.

The state will establish a Clemency Advisory Board to review each application and make recommendations to the governor. 

"Historically speaking, here in New Jersey, receiving a pardon or having your sentence commuted is not a matter of either fairness or objectively. It was a matter of who you knew or how well connected you were to those in power," Murphy said. "With the executive order that I'm signing today we are changing that ... a thoughtful and fair approach to New Jerseyans who deserve a second chance." 

Here are the first members of the Clemency Advisory Board: 

  • Chair: Justin Dews, Counsel at King & Spalding
  • Attorney General's Designee: Michael Zuckerman, Deputy Solicitor General
  • Public Member: Jessica Henry, Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University
  • Public Member: Bishop Joshua Rodriguez, Bishop and Founding Partner of Cityline Church and Police Chaplin at Jersey City Police Department
  • Public Member: JoEllyn Jones, Founding Partner at Jones & Ortiz P.A.
  • Public Member: Ed Neafsey, Adjunct Professor at Rutgers Law School – Newark

The state has set up a website with more information about the program

Rapper Meek Mill spoke from personal experience on the impact of clemency. He is the co-founder of Reform Alliance, which aims to transform probation and parole.

Musical artist Wallo267 is also with the nonprofit.

"I just want to be here to speak for the people who can't speak for themselves," Wallo267 said. 

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