MIDDLETOWN, NJ - A rare plea came from the Middletown Township Committee on Tuesday the 16th of February. It was a call for clemency.
The Mayor expressed his thoughts directly to the community to address an issue that affects many residents in New Jersey and in particular, local resident Nikki Tierney. The Township Committee also passed a resolution in support for bipartisan legislation now in Trenton.
The legislation, S-2951 and A-4771 expands offenses eligible for expungement upon successful discharge from drug court (S-2951/A-4771)
Tierney was recently featured in TAPinto - 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 (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-- expungement. Expungement offers 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. The Mayor expressed his agreement and renewed the call for clemency from Middletown resident and Governor Phil Murphy.
Mayor Perry stated, "This Township committee just passed a resolution that was in support of Senate Bill number 2951 and Assembly Bill 4771. That bill will provide - and this is a bipartisan bill, a bipartisan piece of legislation both Republicans and Democrats are sponsors and cosponsors of this bill - which would provide those who have committed nonviolent offenses the ability to rejoin and be able to feel like they can be a part of this community a part of any community that they live in and in particular Nikki Tierney."
"I've sat here and have sung her praises, and she is a model for individuals who lost their way and have found a way to give back to the very community that stood with her through her struggles, through her demons, and I'm incredibly proud to stand with Nikki" stated Perry.
"I'm so grateful for the Township Committee's willingness to stand with Nikki and to stand with all people who are trying to right their life who may have fallen into drug addiction and come back and be able to give back to the community that gave to them - so I want to thank all of you for your support of that resolution and I want to once again call on the governor as I have in the past and he and I have spoken about this very issue and I appreciate his attention to it, but I will once again ask that the governor provide clemency to Nikki Tierney."
Murphy has yet to act on the request either way.