Leaders of the group New Jersey Together gathered yesterday to thank Hudson County officials for reforms which will help the incarcerated address outstanding warrants and fines during their detention. Speakers called for statewide adoption of the measures.
“We are talking about getting people before a judge so that they can resolve all of their debts before they’re released” said Rev. Laurie Wurm of Grace Church Van Vorst.
The system has failed, says Wurm, by “allowing this continued financial indebtedness to happen…when you’re released…you can go back out there into the community and getting picked up again for one warrant…and never having the experience of finishing your time.”
Wurm called on county and state officials to implement the reforms that Hudson County has begun rolling out.
Retired postal worker and Jersey City Together member Cora Simmons told the crowd at Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church how her son was hit with warrants when he was unable to get to traffic court while incarcerated on another charge. “The very thought that another family would not have to go through this is comforting.”
In an Op-ed in the Newark Star Ledger, Boris Franklin, Lead Organizer of Jersey City Together and Stephon Whitley, an organizer with ONE Wake in North Carolina, wrote that a “spider’s web of fines and fees ensnares every incarcerated person.” Franklin and Whitley spent a combined total of more than 30 years in prison. “For us…imprisonment did not end when we walked out of the prison gates.”
The group thanked Hudson County, the Hudson County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Becky Scott, and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea for their work on the issue.