Gov. Murphy signs executive order to launch historic clemency program in New Jersey

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
NJ Gov. Murphy launches historic clemency program at Juneteenth event
Gov. Murphy signs executive order to launch historic clemency program in New Jersey

NEWARK, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy used Juneteenth to announce a sweeping reform of the criminal justice system.

During a signing ceremony on Wednesday inside the historic St. James AME Church in Newark, Murphy said he wants to grant freedom to more people stuck in the justice system.

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

The governor signed Executive Order 362, which creates a new clemency board that will help expedite pardons and commutations in the state.

"Today in our nation there are generations of families that have been torn apart by a broken criminal justice system that, for too long, has prioritized excessive punishment over healing and rehab," he said.

Those eligible for expedited review include people who committed crimes before they turned 25 and did not re-offend.

Others include victims of sexual violence or sex trafficking who committed crimes against their perpetrators; people sentenced to long sentences during the 'War on Drugs'; people given longer-than-offered sentences after asserting their right to a trial; and nonviolent offenders nearing the end of their sentence.

Two well-known Philadelphia artists were on hand with the governor.

Robert "Meek Mill" Williams and Wallace "Wallo267" Peeples have used their platforms to advocate for reform. Both are leaders of REFORM Alliance, the organization Meek Mill co-founded for criminal justice reform that helped advocate for Wednesday's clemency executive order.

They reflected on their own experience in the criminal justice system.

"Clemency, second chances, giving people a fair shot... I grew up on that side of life," said Meek Mill.

"The first time I got arrested I was 11 years old. Robbery, Philadelphia. Since that day, June 30 of 1990, I never been off of probation, parole, out of the system. I get off parole in 2040," said Wallo267.

The governor said these changes would help people just like them move on from their past and secure their future.

"To these individuals and to everyone in New Jersey, I promise you this: I'm going to use my clemency power as governor to remedy these injustices," Murphy said.

Murphy had not granted any clemency petitions since taking office in 2018. Justin Dews, a lawyer who will serve as chairperson of the Clemency Advisory Board, said the process would be fair to both petitioners and victims and their families.

"Our work will be grounded in fairness and not influence. Clemency is not reserved for the favored and well-connected," Dews said.

Any resident can determine if they are eligible for clemency by visiting the New Jersey state website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.