VISION STATEMENT: NJAC envisions a world of social equity and the development of just laws that are impartially applied to all people. NJAC believes that though many people are negatively impacted by social inequities, they have the capacity to make changes in their lives, given the tools and support needed.
PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT: NJAC believes that, although individuals are sometimes caught in circumstances beyond their control, they are capable of making change in their lives and being re-directed to more positive behaviors when provided with the tools necessary to do so. We also believe that people are best served in a respectful and dignified manner in the community, rather than in an institutional setting, in order to reach their highest potential for independent living.
HISTORY: The New Jersey Association on Correction has its origins in two organizations which were established almost concurrently in the late 1950’s. The Citizens Association on Correction grew out of the New Jersey Welfare Council’s committee review of the controversial “Alexander Report” which proposed sweeping changes in New Jersey’s institutions and agencies. It excluded corrections practitioners from its membership. The Morrow Association was formed by individuals working in the corrections field concerned about treatment of inmates in county jails. The former group focused on changing policy in New Jersey while the latter focused on service delivery. Despite differences in program orientation, a merger was accomplished in 1961 and a new non-profit, the Morrow Association on Correction, was established. In 1972, the name was changed to the New Jersey Association on Correction (NJAC).
The original by-laws list the Association’s objectives as “prevention of crime and delinquency and the rehabilitation and restoration of offenders to society…ameliorate the conditions of inmates of correctional institutions and places of detention and their families…promote the education and arouse the interests of the citizens of New Jersey in correctional and rehabilitative programs… reduce the rate of recidivism and protect society from the menace of crime and delinquency”.
For the first few years of its existence, the focus was primarily on policy issues with an emphasis on avoiding new construction of prisons and jails. In 1966, the Association was awarded a grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity for a demonstration project which established Clinton House in Trenton, our first residential program to help inmates make the transition from incarceration to the community. It also provided social service staff at both the Mercer and Middlesex County workhouses. A second halfway house, Sanford Bates House, was founded in New Brunswick in 1972.
Over the years a variety of non-residential programs were launched from these residential bases, including Project Reunion in New Brunswick, the Female Offenders Resource Center and the Women Offenders Resource Center (forerunners of the Middlesex County Resource Center which continues to operate today).
James (Jim) Hemm became the Executive Director of the New Jersey Association on Correction in 1984. Jim had been with the Association since 1969 and thought that the Agency needed to diversify its programs and client base.
The first new program to be added was services to victims/survivors of domestic abuse, with the acquisition of a domestic violence shelter in Passaic County in 1985. Passaic County Women’s Center (PCWC) provides victims with a confidential place to stay, education, counseling and case management services. A 24-hour domestic violence hotline is also operated at the shelter. An Outreach Center, serving victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and other walk-in clients was opened in 1987.
The ‘90’s saw the Association move into the area of services to low-income individuals living with HIV (Broughton House), Winifred Canright House, serving persons living with HIV/AIDS at risk of becoming homeless, Project FIRST, serving mothers living with HIV/AIDS with a history of substance abuse and the Scattered Site Housing Project, transitional housing for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
Millicent Fenwick House, a 50-bed residential treatment facility opened its doors in 1997. This unique program serves the female state pre-release population with histories of substance abuse and mental health issues.
In 1999, the New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP) was founded. In 2003 it became a program of NJAC. NJADP’s goal is to win public and political support for the elimination of execution as a form of punishment in New Jersey. That goal was reached in December 2007 when New Jersey lawmakers approved a bill to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. This measure made New Jersey the first state in over 40 years to outlaw capital punishment. There are now fourteen states without capital punishment.
The Corrections AIDS Project (CAP) launched in 2001. CAP is an HIV/AIDS prevention and education project. Staff provides health education and risk reduction sessions with NJAC clients at assessment centers and institutions throughout the state. Discharge planning is also provided to inmates within three months of their release at five area correctional institutions.
In 2002 the Agency took over the Domestic Violence Shelter in Camden County. This acquisition made NJAC the lead DYFS (Division of Youth & Family Services) agency in both Passaic and Camden Counties. Camden County Women’s Center is modeled after PCWC and provides similar services including shelter, counseling, case management and housing assistance.
Additionally, in 2002, PCWC and CCWC added Domestic Violence Response Team (DRVT) Programs. The DRVT Program utilizes trained community volunteers that work with victims at police departments. Volunteers work with victims in order to educate them regarding the dynamics of domestic violence, the legal process, and available community resources.
In 2004, CCWC opened an Outreach Center serving survivors of domestic violence.
In 2005, through a generous grant of computer equipment from the Beaumont Foundation of America, GreatER Expectations (GE) was “born” and introduced at Millicent Fenwick and Broughton Houses. GE provides comprehensive computer training classes that not only help clients master computer skills, but also assists them with the “soft skills” (resume preparation, job interview skills, and job retention techniques) necessary for obtaining and maintaining employment.
A Youth Court was formed in Perth Amboy in 2005. Based on the National Judge Model, NJAC’s Youth Court utilizes an adult judge with youth volunteers as jury members, courtroom staff and attorneys that hear cases for first time youth offenders that have admitted guilt to minor offenses. The goal of this restorative justice program is to reduce future criminal activity and educate young people about careers in the criminal justice field.
In 2005, Sanford Bates House shifted its focus towards homeless parolees and now exists as PATH (Parolee Aftercare & Transitional Housing). Funded by the New Jersey State Parole Board, the focus of this program is to assist residents with acquiring permanent housing and employment.
The PALS (PEACE: A Learned Solution) Program began in 2005 in Passaic and Camden Counties. Youth, ages 3 to 12, that have been exposed to domestic violence are targeted and receive a variety of expressive therapies. The goal of PALS is to enable children to gain mastery over their feelings that are affecting current behaviors and performance in educational and social environments.
In 2006, the agency began providing services to a new population, women in the reintegration process of their parole. The Essex County Women’s Day Reporting Center provides services to twenty female ex-offenders, ten of whom are provided with transitional housing. Participants are provided with opportunities to gain employment and employment skills, and to increase their educational, vocational and technical skill sets. Participants are also assisted in developing life skills, life management, coping skills and making positive contacts in the community.
In 2008, Hawkins House was established. Named in honor of a long-standing Board Member, Nancy Hawkins, this program serves the ever-increasing homeless teenage population that exists in the state. Hawkins House is a trans-permanent housing program serving homeless youth between the ages of 18 & 23. The goal of the program is to break the cycle of homelessness and to create the opportunity for self-sufficiency as youth continue into adulthood.
Throughout this major service expansion, the Association has remained steadfast in its public policy role, advocating against continued prison construction and promoting its belief in the importance of intermediate community based sanctions that are more humane and cost effective than incarceration. This work is done through the Public Education and Policy division, whereas, staff continually monitors legislation that affects the populations that NJAC serves.