TRENTON, N.J. — Some incarcerated individuals have the chance to earn time off their sentence as part of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) Education Incentive Initiative, the department announced recently.
Eligible individuals can take select credit-bearing courses which provide remission from time of their sentence for achievements in education and workforce training. The initiative is the NJDOC’s latest effort to support reentry and dovetails with the department’s pre-release employment navigation efforts to build partnerships with employers as incarcerated individuals prepare to return to the workforce.
Holistic rehabilitation of individuals through education, vocational training, substance-use disorder support, and behavioral counseling is at the core of the department’s mission.
“Education is a powerful tool to reduce recidivism and support successful reentry,” Commissioner Marcus O. Hicks, Esq., said in a press release from the department. “By incentivizing education, we are able to foster personal development and job-readiness. We are confident that this new initiative will encourage more individuals to enroll in educational and workforce programming that can give them the skills needed for success after release.”
Eligible courses include high school equivalency and post-secondary degrees, plumbing, drywall, DOT hazardous materials, small engine repair, heating and ventilation, electrical, carpentry, welding, culinary arts, weatherization, alternative energy and green technology, to name a few. All courses are intended to develop a pool of job-ready candidates available to transition into a modern employment market.
Each educational and vocational course ranges from 0.2 to 20 credits depending on the duration of the course. For example, completing a course in green technology and small engine repair would earn one credit, while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree would earn 20 credits. One credit amounts to one day of remission time, and there are no limits to how many credits an individual can earn.
In accordance with state law, remission credits apply to the Maximum Release Date only and not the Parole Eligibility date.
Anyone who completes a course by or participates in the initiative after the effective date of January 21, 2020 is eligible, provided they are not within 210 days of their Maximum Release Date.
In 2019, more than 3,800 individuals earned a vocational certificate or post-secondary degree while incarcerated. During that time, more than 7,000 certificates of completion were awarded for Career Technical Education programs, 484 individuals received a high school equivalency diploma, and 600 individuals enrolled in post-secondary courses.