State DOC Commissioner Commits to Implementing NJT's Fines and Fees Plan Statewide, Work Together on More Progress 


On March 6th, 2024, sixty-five New Jersey Together clergy and community leaders from Essex Together, Morris Together, and Jersey City Together gathered for a public action with New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark. This action was to publicly celebrate Commissioner Kuhn’s commitment to expand New Jersey Together’s plan to help people clear fines, fees, warrants, and other legal entanglements before they are released to the entire state prison system. We also committed to working together on further measures on this and other criminal justice issues.

In recent months, leaders from New Jersey Together have focused on the burden created when excessive fines, fees, warrants, or detainers are assessed to those returning from prison or jail. In response to NJT pressure, both Hudson and Essex counties have agreed to minimize those fines and fees and to guarantee that those leaving prison are better equipped to reenter the mainstream of social, economic, and public life and are less likely to be re-incarcerated.

“Fines and fees and outstanding warrants pose significant economic and legal burdens on those reentering communities,” said Essex Together leader Jessica Brater, a member of Bnai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue in Montclair. “Being able to address those barriers while incarcerated makes it much easier for people to rebuild their lives upon returning.”

Edwin Ortiz, Executive Director of the Returning Citizens Support Group, said, “This was a promising step by the counties, but there is more work to be done to improve conditions in our state and county facilities.”

DOC Commissioner Kuhn has been a constructive ally in NJT efforts and criminal justice reform. At the March 6 action, NJT leaders recognized her for her commitments and other steps she had already taken. These include putting the maintenance fees people pay while they are in a halfway house into an account they can access upon release. NJT and Commissioner Kuhn also committed to working together to expand the progress on fines and fees and other reforms that enable those incarcerated to resume a whole and productive life once released.