Nikki Tierney's Plea to Governor Phil Murphy:
Listen to Nikki's Journey on the LegisLEADERS Podcast!
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Monmouth County is close to the beach. In fact, many of its beautiful towns are on the beach. Every year, locals clamor for a daily badge or enjoy a membership at one of the local beach clubs. They bring themselves. They bring their families. They want to have fun. They may even have a drink. Or two. Or three...or more.
They may be by themselves or with their friends. They may also be with their children. For most, everyone has a nice time and goes home. Some don't fare so well.
They make choices, bad choices.
Nikki Tierney, mom of four, drank one day and it got out of hand. She drank too much. Her son was also with her and was watching.
Nikki was in the ocean and having difficulty. Ultimately, she was rescued, pulled out of the water and charged with endangering the welfare of a child who witnessed it all at 3 years of age. From the shore. Her son who she loves. Now, thirteen years ago, she is a loving mom to four children and something else. She has another label - a stain that she cannot remove on her own.
Nikki Tierney is a felon.
You can listen to her story and so much more during the LegisLEADERS podcast.
Her story is the journey of rehabilitation and redemption. Criminal justice reform in New Jersey and the failures of Trenton in getting things done.
It's of grace and peace and one where great challenges brought great hope and inspiration. Within that, there is a goal, an aspiration and a dream. After successfully graduating drug court and earning a Masters Degree, and meeting every benchmark set for her, Tierney has been blocked. Not just Tierney but thousands of other 'Nikkis' who are also stuck in the quagmire of Trenton red tape. She needs help.
Her story can be anyone's story.
Class mom? Forget it. Cosigning your college students lease? No. Get a job? Good luck. You are a felon.
Forever. Unless Governor Murphy acts on the dozens of requests from citizens, Senators and Assembly members to sign off and free her from the chains that bind her.
Nikki in her 2019 online PETITION, writes:
"Twelve (now thirteen) years ago, on a fateful day, September 21, 2007, I was in active drug addiction and made a terrible decision. As a result, I pled guilty to a felony and was sentenced to Drug Court. While participating in the Monmouth County Drug Court program, I received intensive treatment for my opioid use disorder and mental health treatment for my depression. Since that time, for over a decade, I have been clean and sober and completely rehabilitated my life. However, despite that transformation, I have been unable to escape the draconian consequences of my felony conviction. I am pleading for mercy and help. I am pleading for a second chance." stated Tierney.
Tierney recently completed graduate school, and obtained a Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling, with a concentration in addiction studies, from Monmouth University. She wants to become a state licensed clinical drug and alcohol counselor and licensed professional counselor, to help others and support her four children as a single parent, but she can't because of the felony.
Stated Tierney, "Nationwide, it is estimated that approximately 19 million Americans have felony conviction records (Prescott & Starr, 2018). Ex-offenders face many hurdles particularly with regard to employment, housing, and social reintegration. Federal law alone imposes close to 1,200 collateral consequences, and another 1,088 are imposed by New Jersey Sign up for TAPinto free daily local news here. (National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction). These collateral consequences and hurdles have been collectively referred to as a “new civil death." However, there is a cost-free way for Governor Murphy and the legislators of the State of New Jersey to give rehabilitated convicted offenders true freedom and an opportunity to become valuable, meaningful members of society-- expungements. Expungements offer the possibility of releasing hundreds of legal and socioeconomic consequences at once; by allowing individuals to apply for jobs, housing, schools, and benefits as though their convictions did not exist. In Michigan, a 2018 study has provided epidemiological evidence that people who receive expungements have extremely low recidivism rates, while they experience extremely high rates of enhanced employment opportunities and earning potential. Granting expungements to non-violent, non-sexual ex-offenders who have demonstrated rehabilitation benefits not only the individuals receiving those expungements, but society as a whole."
For Tierney and others, it's the stroke of a pen from Governor Murphy.
"New Jersey elected officials attempted to broaden access to expungements, but unfortunately, their effort has failed miserably. For example, three years ago, a law was passed allowing Drug Court graduates broadened access to expungements, but yet only 1,353 of over 6,000, or 22%, of eligible Drug Court Graduates have received expungements. I am one of the people who have been unable to obtain an expungement after successful graduation from Drug Court, sustained recovery, and demonstrated rehabilitation. In fact, while I have received a Certificate of Rehabilitation pursuant to the New Jersey Rehabilitated Convicted Offender's Act, I have been denied an expungement." said Tierney.
Tierney further stated in her petition: "My story, like that of thousands of other New Jerseyans--is one of tragic drug dependency and the opportunity for so-called second chances that the Legislature meant for drug courts to offer. The denial of my expungement risks thwarting my endeavors to become a counselor, help other members of society, and support my four children financially. I have made so many efforts to obtain a second chance, but I have largely been ignored. My voice alone is not enough. I am respectfully asking you to help support my request for clemency and appeal to the legislators revise the expungement statutes so that expungements are in fact granted to those people who have demonstrated rehabilitation." said Tierney.
Tierney lives in the same town as Murphy; Middletown, New Jersey. Murphy campaigned on criminal justice reform. Tierney is asking for it. Right now, Tierney needs something that only Murphy can give - the stroke of a pen to grant clemency to this mom of four, dedicated to foster positive change in the world. She's following her calling. First, by calling her Middletown neighbor, Governor Phil Murphy.
Publisher's Note: Legisleader's PodCast host is a family member of the publisher of TAPinto Holmdel, Colts Neck, Middletown, Hazlet and Keyport. Sign up for TAPinto free daily local news here.