NERA stands for “No Early Release Act.” NERA was a bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature. Governor Jon Corzine signed it into law on June 9, 1997. It took effect that same day. Its statutory reference is N.J.S. 2C:43-7.2.

The misguided philosophy of NERA is that the interests of society are best served by imposing longer and longer periods of imprisonment for persons convicted of certain crimes. This misguided philosophy is not unique to New Jersey. Quite the contrary, it parallels a national trend. Thus, as reported by The Sentencing Project:

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.


Mandatory 85% prison sentence is extreme, unnecessary and certainly has little or no impact on improving society. There is a misguided reasoning that the interests of society are best served by imposing mandatory longer prison sentences with no possibility of early release (N.E.R.A) for persons convicted of certain crimes. THIS REASONING IS FALSE!
N.E.R.A is Unfair:
Inmates who are sentenced using N.E.R.A guidelines, have ZERO % chance of an early release even if they exhibit GREAT behavior and prove that they are worthy of release. N.E.R.A deprives such individuals of a second chance and yet we boast of a constitution that advocates second Chances. There are no second chances with N.E.R.A. You are punished for your bad behavior, yet good behavior means nothing. Good behavior simply means you get to stay in prison without additional time.
N.E.R.A creates a repeated cycle of crime and affects minorities the most:
As the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Who better to teach their kids to stay away from the four letter words “J.A.I.L.” than a reformed Inmate. Yet that reformed Inmate will never get to teach their family, especially their kids who are the future generation to stay away from Jail, because N.E.R.A will block that chance. Guess what? Statistics show that kids whose parents are incarcerated, have a higher chance of finding themselves incarcerated too. Yet our leaders are scratching their heads and wondering why incarceration is rising, while they continue to impose N.E.R.A. While N.E.R.A guidelines can be used for all, statistics show that N.E.R.A. affects minorities the most. New Jersey Prisons are swarmed with minority inmates who are serving extremely long sentences until the mandatory time has been served irrespective of reformation. This is no justice.
Nera takes away Judicial discretion:
Judges’ hands are tied and they have no discretion to reduce a sentence below the mandatory time. The irony is that N.E.R.A. guidelines not only restrict reformed inmates, but also restrict the Judges who set the sentence in the first place. It makes absolute no sense.
N.E.R.A. wastes tax payers’ money:
Mandatory sentencing is expensive and costing tax payers millions and millions of dollars every year. “The cost to house an inmate for one year is $53,000,” says New Jersey Department of Corrections Spokesman Matt Schuman. Fund for New Jersey emphasizes the need to curb the use of mandatory sentence and in its article, it explains that when Michigan in 2003 repealed almost all mandatory minimums for drug offenses, during the period from 2006 to 2010, the state’s prison population fell 15% and spending on prisons declined by $148 million, and both violent and property crime rates declined. Rhode Island, after repealing its mandatory sentencing laws in 2009, has seen its prison population declined by 12% and the state’s crime rate is down by several percentage points. New Jersey is not among the states that have taken steps to reduce mandatory sentences. Incarceration in New Jersey is on the rise and millions of our dollars are spent to maintain N.E.R.A. Leading sentencing scholar Michael Tonry has explained: “The evidence is clear that mandatory penalties have either no demonstrable marginal deterrent effects or short-term effects that rapidly waste away.”It is time for change, its time to correct the New Jersey Judicial system. Its time to reduce N.E.R.A. to 65%.