Governor Chris Christie’s problem with Bridgegate has made the national news for several months. The Governor’s prison reform policies and his connections as a former lobbyist for a private prison company have faded from the public eye.
Governor Christie was one of several conservative Republican governors who has advocated prison reform as a way to save tax dollars. He passed bipartisan legislation mandating drug treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent offenders. Gov. Christie has stressed that drug treatment and not jail sentences was the path for reduction of crime. If recidivism was lowered, then New Jersey will shrink its crowded prison system. In the end, a successful drug treatment program would reduce the state prison population and the state’s deficit. Gov. Christie has initiated positive steps for prison reform.
On the other hand, the New York Times, conducted last year an investigation titled, Halfway House Help , of New Jersey’s program for halfway houses. The articles described in detail the horrors of this system. According to the Times investigation, the violent criminals were not controlled and the nonviolent offenders were at the mercy of other inmates. The half way houses were managed by private companies.
Governor Christie, before becoming Governor of New jersey, was the lobbyist for Community Education Centers, the biggest company in charge of halfway houses in New Jersey. In just over five years, roughly 5,100 escapes occurred at those New Jersey halfway houses. There was criticism of Gov. Christie for his lobbyist praise of this private prison company which did not protect the nonviolent inmates or the public from the violent inmates. There was tremendous concern over the continuing flow of inmates to this private prison company during his governorship despite its horrible record.
Only time will tell if Governor Christie was a true leader for prison reform.