urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey

Read complete document: PDF


PrintPrint this page
Share:
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Digg Share on Reddit
| Email this pageE-mail
Document date: December 08, 2003
Released online: December 08, 2003

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF). (File is 7MB+)


Executive Summary

This report describes the process of prisoner reentry in New Jersey by examining the policy context surrounding prisoner reentry in the state, the characteristics of the state's returning inmates, the geographic distribution of returning prisoners, and the social and economic climates of the communities that are home to the highest concentrations of returning prisoners. This report does not attempt to evaluate a specific reentry program or empirically assess New Jersey's reentry policies and practices. Rather, the report consolidates existing data on incarceration and release trends and presents a new analysis of data on New Jersey prisoners released in 2002. The data used from this report were derived from several sources, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the New Jersey State Parole Board, and the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Probation in the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Juvenile Justice Commission, the Department of Human Services, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Highlights from the report are presented below.

Historical Incarceration and Release Trends. New Jersey's incarceration and reentry trends are similar to those observed at the national level. Between 1977 and 2002, the New Jersey prison population more than quadrupled, increasing from 6,017 to 27,891 people. The per capita rate of imprisonment in New Jersey rose from 76 to 331 per 100,000 residents in the state between 1980 and 2002, an increase of over 336 percent. The growth in New Jersey's prison population is largely attributable to rising prison admissions, and may have resulted in part due to longer lengths of stay in prison. Prison admissions increased because of the rise in arrests for drug offenses, the increased use of mandatory minimum sentences in New Jersey, and a rising number of individuals returned to prison as a result of parole revocations. New Jersey's release patterns reflect these admission and population trends: 14,849 prisoners were released from New Jersey prisons in 2002, nearly four times the number released in 1980 (3,910).

Profile of Prisoners Released in 2002. The majority of released prisoners were male (91 percent) and black (62 percent). The median age at release was 34 years. Over one-third had been serving time for drug offenses. The average time served for those released for the first time was just under two years. Thirty-nine percent were incarcerated for a violation of parole. One-third had been diagnosed with a physical or mental health condition. Educational skills are severely limited. A vast majority had a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

How Prisoners are Prepared for Release. In-prison program availability is limited in New Jersey. In 2001, 17 percent of all prison and jail inmates participated in academic programming and six percent participated in vocational programming provided by the Department of Corrections' Office of Educational Services. Other work programs can accommodate about 12 percent of the population. Therapeutic substance abuse beds are available for about 6 percent of the population.

How New Jersey Prisoners are Released. In 2002, a majority, two-thirds, of all prisoners released were released to a period of supervision. However, the number and share of prisoners released without supervision in New Jersey increased over the 1990s.

Geographic Distribution of Released Prisoners. Almost one-third of prisoners released in 2002 came from two counties—Essex and Camden—that already face great economic and social disadvantage. The median household income in the central cities of these two counties is less than 50 percent of the statewide median household income. Unemployment in the central cities of these two counties is significantly higher than in the rest of the state, and large shares of the population live in poverty and in single parent households.


This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF). (File is 7MB+)



Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice


Usage and reprints: Most publications may be downloaded free of charge from the web site and may be used and copies made for research, academic, policy or other non-commercial purposes. Proper attribution is required. Posting UI research papers on other websites is permitted subject to prior approval from the Urban Institute—contact publicaffairs@urban.org.

If you are unable to access or print the PDF document please contact us or call the Publications Office at (202) 261-5687.

Disclaimer: The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Copyright of the written materials contained within the Urban Institute website is owned or controlled by the Urban Institute.

Email this Page