Since the passage of the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1986, which ushered in a regime of harsh mandatory minimum sentences, the proportion of the prison population incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses has risen from 11 percent to 32 percent—an almost three-fold increase. New Jersey has the highest proportion of nonviolent drug offenders as a proportion of its overall prison population in the nation (36 percent). This percentage is far above the national average of 20 percent.
The time has come for New Jersey to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses, and replace it with a policy that gives judges the discretion to craft fair and effective sentences. This policy would also allow for innovative and effective community-based programs that strengthen and support at-risk families and communities.