Episode 133: Chairman Samuel J. Plumeri, Parole Awareness
On this episode, Karen speaks with Chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board, Samuel J. Plumeri. Chairman Plumeri is here to educate listeners about parole as well as share his professional journey that lead to his current position, heading the state’s lead reentry organization, ensuring that formerly incarcerated persons return to society as law abiding citizens.
Samuel J. Plumeri Bio
Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr. serves as Chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board. In this capacity, he oversees an agency that serves as the state’s lead reentry organization working to ensure that offenders return to society as law-abiding citizens. Mr. Plumeri is also charged with reducing the state’s recidivism rate while working to promote public safety throughout the state’s communities. Additionally, Mr. Plumeri is a Commissioner for the New Jersey Police Training Commission, which is responsible for the development and certification of basic training courses for state, county, and local members of law enforcement.
Prior to joining the New Jersey State Parole Board, Mr. Plumeri served at the Port Authority of NY & NJ as Superintendent of Police and Director of Public Safety. He joined the agency following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and faced the immediate challenge of providing safety and security for tens of millions of people who used the Port Authority’s vast network of transportation facilities in a post-9/11 world.
In 1990, Mr. Plumeri was elected Mercer County Sheriff and immediately instituted many public safety programs. Some of these initiatives included his national award-winning “Blue Light Program,” aimed at protecting senior citizens, development and establishment of the county’s first K9 Bomb Detection Unit, and creating county-wide emergency response teams. Mr. Plumeri was re-elected Sheriff by overwhelming margins in 1993, 1996, and 1999. Following his successful work in Mercer County as Sheriff, Mr. Plumeri was asked to help lead the Port Authority Police in April 2002 as the agency recovered from 9/11. Prior to being elected Sheriff, Mr. Plumeri was appointed Mercer County Undersheriff where he oversaw all training, special operations and special investigations. In 1989, he was promoted to First Undersheriff, a title that he held until May 1990, when Governor James J. Florio appointed him County Sheriff.
Mr. Plumeri began his law enforcement career when he joined the Trenton Police Division. He walked the proverbial cop beat as an officer before eventually being promoted to the highly sensitive Special Services Unit. As an undercover operative, he removed millions of dollars of illegal narcotics from the streets and shut down high-level drug distributors— work that is still considered legendary. Mr. Plumeri’s talent as an undercover agent was soon recognized and he was assigned Chief of Intelligence to the Trenton-Mercer Organized Crime Strike Force.
Mr. Plumeri has also served as a guiding force for Capital Health System for 16 years, helping to lead the health care system as a member of its Board of Directors from 2003 to 2018. In 2015, Mr. Plumeri was appointed Chairman, Board of Trustees— a role which he still holds. Mr. Plumeri is a graduate of Rider University where he is also an honored member of the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame. He lives in Hamilton Township, New Jersey with his wife, Barbara and is the proud father of two grown children, Jessica and Matthew, and two grandchildren, Nina Rose and Samuel Joseph.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened was I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was out there. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry, can someone help me? Where can I go? Can someone help me?
Karen Ortman 00:30
This is you matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of campus safety. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to you matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I'm your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of campus safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Sam Plumeri, chairman of the New Jersey state parole board, Chairman Plumeri is here to educate listeners about parole, as well as share his professional journey that led to his current position, heading the state's lead reentry organization, ensuring that formerly incarcerated persons return to society as law abiding citizens. Chairman Plummer, I, welcome to you matter.
Samuel Plumeri 01:30
Thank you, Karen. Nice to see you.
Karen Ortman 01:34
Sam, welcome. Very nice to see you, sir. I know you started with the Trenton police department because that actually is not where I met you. Is when you moved on from the Trenton police department. But let's start there.
Samuel Plumeri 01:49
Oh, god that goes back to Custer. Well, let's see, I started with the trend Police Division in 1970. I had dealt with the State Police earlier. But I got injured and took some time off and went with Trenton in July of 1970. And I went through the academy and like everyone else does, and of course, into patrol for a year and a half or two. And they had then made the decision to start a specialized unit. Back then it was called the Special Services Unit. I had made considerable amount of drug arrests when I was on patrol. And so I was selected going to say we should probably start with 12 or 13 officers in that unit, which did narcotics related cases organized crime, vise related investigation, stuff like that. So I did that I was undercover for almost 10 years, doing both narcotics and mostly organized crime investigations later on surface stuff, and intelligence things.
Karen Ortman 03:01
And this was exclusively in Trenton or were you loaned out to other agencies,
Samuel Plumeri 03:05
I was loaned out quite a bit. I was for a short period of time, as I recall as a long time. So they had established then what was called the Trenton Mercer Organized Crime Task Force. I don't know if you remember that.
Karen Ortman 03:20
I don't remember that name. Yeah. And so
Samuel Plumeri 03:23
I was intelligence officer for that. And I was did that for a while I had been on loan to a couple of federal task forces in New York City. I had worked with Bo Deedle. Bo as a celebrity nasally. And we still stay in contact. So I learned I learned the gritty way. Let's put it that way back then when there was really not a whole lot of formalized education in terms of undercover work and things like that. So you kind of learned the hard way. Trenton was controlled by at least three crime families. BRUNO Genovese, Ely, Chazy. Michigan, anyone knows probably. So it was kind of a mishmash of activity, because we were centrally geographically speaking. And as a result of that, there was an awful lot of things going back and forth. Yeah. So a lot of activity.
Karen Ortman 04:21
Yeah. So you do that through the 70s and the 80s. Because I know when I started in law enforcement in 88, you were an UnderSheriff in the Sheriff's Department.
Samuel Plumeri 04:32
I left the Trenton Police Division in 1986 Gila Gozi was the sheriff back then yes, and Gil had back then it wasn't unusual for sheriff's not to have a law enforcement background, believe it or not, it's not statutorily required to constitutional office. So as a result of it, the Police Training Commission was just getting established. So Earl had asked me if I would be interested in coming over, quite frankly, to try to write policies that were required by the PTC back then. And professionalizing, the office, I guess, for the lack of a better term. So that's what I did. I sat in an office and I wrote policies and try to identify areas that the sheriff's office should be focused on. Yeah. And did that until my team mighty. And in my team ID, then Governor Florio had offered Gil, a position on the state parole board, believe it or not, as as a board member, I was first UnderSheriff and usually the way it works. If a an incumbent Sheriff leaves, the person who has designated as first on to Sheriff becomes acting sheriff. And that's what happened. And then the governor appointed me, Sheriff, I had to be confirmed by the Senate. And that was I believe, I could be wrong. But it was May of 1990. And then I had to run that next November. And I was as prepared for as no one. Yeah, I really wasn't, I was as apolitical as you could possibly get back then. So that was a real education. And that was the year I don't know if you recall, when the governor did some very progressive things, to say the least. And there was a statewide reaction to that. And as a result of it, I was quite of a handful of people that actually want. So that was the first election that I won by 1400 votes.
Karen Ortman 06:55
And that certainly changed over the course of your subsequent elections, where you won by landslides.
Samuel Plumeri 07:02
I learned Yeah, you did? Well, you know, for me, it was never really the traditional political stuff. I used what I did, as Sheriff, and the programs that we did, and the outreach and the the community that was kind of my politics, if you will,
Karen Ortman 07:24
and just the manner in which he worked with other law enforcement agencies, you know, where he came up that partnership?
Samuel Plumeri 07:31
Well, that was helpful, too. Because all the years that I was, you know, in Trenton, I had established those relationships with as you did people that that you work with, and they rise up. And so we all kind of knew we trusted each other. So it made my journey, because there was always this uncomfortableness with sheriff's back then, because of the power of the Constitution. And some were doing things that really didn't make sense throughout the state. There were duplicating a lot of effort that locals were doing. So you can imagine she's having that reaction to a sheriff, especially Sheriff with with law enforcement expert. Yeah. So it took me some time to kind of get that. And, and they had, I was the first Sheriff that they let into the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association as a voting member. Oh, really? Well, it worked out better. At least they knew what I was doing. Yeah, yeah.
Karen Ortman 08:25
So share, if you will, some of the conflicts that you encountered as a sheriff in terms of your relationships with chiefs throughout the county?
Samuel Plumeri 08:35
That's a great question, what I did, and great segue as to what I just said, allowing me to be part of their conversation. On a monthly basis. What I essentially did was say, you know, I'm here to help you. So if you can tell me the problems that you're having with your agency, and how I can help you fulfill that, I would be more than happy to do that. So there were areas of transportation back then, with prisoner transportation, especially with smaller departments, things of that nature. I had. I don't know if you recall, when there was a shooting back in Newark years ago, the courts then made each Sheriff develop a court security plan with tactical capabilities as well. So I was forced, if you will, to establish a tactical team. We were the first ones that had that Trenton had a small inserted Hamilton. I kind of expanded that as well and avoided some of those. So we trained together. So we had a county wide capability of response. I did that with canine as well, during that period of time as Sheriff, the airport started. Yes, right. And back then Mercer was one of three commercial air airports in New Jersey, North Atlantic City and Mercer. So the county executive asked me to consider because as a constitutional office, it's not a direction. It was a request to take that on, which I thought was not only responsible to do, but good for the office. Sure. And I was able to use the canines that we had trained. And I did that. We took over the security of the airport, and it's gone through its ups and downs. But the truth of the matter is the sheriff is still there. Yeah. In in control of security, I'm happy to say,
Karen Ortman 10:41
and that airport has really expanded. Oh, wow.
Samuel Plumeri 10:43
I drove by there just this past Sunday. It's amazing how how much it has grown. Yeah. So very proud of that. To do that, yeah.
Karen Ortman 10:52
So your last term for Mercer County sheriff was in 1999. That's, that was your last election.
Samuel Plumeri 11:01
I retired as Sheriff in 2002. I had a total of 32 years in the system for personal reasons. I decided to stay got more years. There are some individuals in my office that I wanted to make sure we're okay. Yeah. Moving forward. Then the other stuff starts.
Karen Ortman 11:22
Are we talking about Port Authority of New York, New Jersey. So how did that evolve into you becoming the Superintendent of Police and Director of Public Safety?
Samuel Plumeri 11:35
Okay, well, what happened? Getting close to the end of my term? Governor McGreevy had first reached out to me to ask if I would be one of his deputy chiefs of staff, and having some pretty interesting responsibilities, one being the liaison with the state police, and then what was called the Office of Counterterrorism. The Cathy flicker was in charge of she tried just about all my case was when I was a detective, so we had a very good relationship. And during that process, I mean, I was about ready to take that position. And then I get a phone call at 930. At night, I'll never forget it from who I thought was still a State Senator Jackson, aka God rest his soul. He passed away some years ago, started the conversation by saying I heard that you retired, I said, well, not really yet. But I'm thinking about going there. He said, Well, I was wondering if we could have breakfast, I still thought he was a senator. I had no idea that he was the chairman of the Port Authority. And I found out about that later, I sure, of course, accepted breakfast, and I thought he wanted to meet me on route one. But he didn't. He said, No, Sam, I'm the chairman of the Port Authority. I'll send the car and I'll meet you in New York. So I did that the next day. And it was a few months after 911. I actually started there in April of 2002, so only a few months. So I started there as a deputy superintendent. They created two other positions. I was a deputy superintendent for intelligence and training. There was another deputy that did nothing with the counterterrorism stuff I Port Authority at that time, really, up until 911 was a transportation police agency. It wasn't a counterterrorism agency, so many things that needed to be put in place. So my job initially was to hire and train 500 officers. Our Academy had been displaced to Fairleigh, Dickinson and Barragan to I spent time there. And I was waiting for my security clearance with the FBI to start my other journey. And that was setting up the intelligence capabilities for the PA PD. And so for the most part, that's I spent a few years just doing that.
Karen Ortman 14:09
How did your law enforcement experience up to that the point we're talking about, which is you're now at Port Authority, how did that translate into what you were doing for port at the Port Authority and what your vision was for Port Authority?
Samuel Plumeri 14:25
Well, I often tell people, that I was never really afraid to entertain opportunities. As long as the opportunities weren't something that I felt was over my head. I had no idea what the Port Authority was like. It was a foreign country to me. I mean, most people go to New York City to go to a ballgame or a play and, and for the most part, I was pretty centric, here my entire career. So going there not knowing his soul was interesting. The commuting was It's interesting. Having in my head, what they wanted me to do was not I recognize that training and how, because it was a public agency, it was still somewhat familiar to me as to how that process would work. We've got the pirate most the NYPD guys. Yeah, that came over. They wanted to be pa police officers. So that wasn't too hard. Yeah, the intelligence part of it was more setting up the apparatus, intelligence, intelligence, you know, into a broader way. And of course, expanding into the national security side of the house was somewhat foreign to me. But nonetheless, intelligence is intelligence. I have to tell you, the some of the most professional, dedicated law enforcement officers I don't think I've I've ever met, and I mean, never will again, especially given what happened to them. Yeah. very dedicated.
Karen Ortman 16:00
When you were with the sheriff's department, like how big was the department? How many people did you supervise?
Samuel Plumeri 16:07
Sure. I think then, when I left, from top to bottom, including myself, I think I had 150 officers. I think that's how big the agency was not very, very large.
Karen Ortman 16:19
And then you go to Port Authority. Quite quite a large number. How many? Just
Samuel Plumeri 16:24
a tad? Yeah, I went from that to 3500 officers, not to count and contract security guards, because I stayed as a deputy until 2004. Then I became a superintendent. That was an interesting thing as well. I didn't see that coming, quite frankly, the gentleman that just backing up a little bit. During 911. The person that was the superintendent Fred Marrone was Lieutenant Colonel, former lieutenant colonel in New Jersey State Police. He and I had worked intelligence together. Wow. And he had gone to become the superintendent of the Port Authority police. He left headquarters that day, and went to the towers that was that and never found anything afraid. Nothing. So typically, that position was always a New Jersey position. Again, we're talking about word authority. And so they chose not to Commissioner Kelly at the time, please become a great friend had pushed to have a song from the NYPD. Take that position. So Charlie di Rienzo. His name was he became the superintendent when I got there. He was already in place. I had taken Fred's role. And I said they had come up with these two other positions, one of which I filled. And in 2004, Charlie had gone and I think was the first vacation that I had had most of my Sunriver in the Florida Keys fishing. I just got, I just got there. And we have blackberries back then we're little. Anyway, I got a phone call from the chairman. I don't think check, Karen. I unpacked my bag. Tony Kosha was the chairman of the Port Authority at the time, and called and said, Sam, I hear you're on vacation. I suggest, sir. I just just got here. He said, we just want to let you know that Charlie's no longer with us, and you're the superintendent. Well, that was my vacation.
Karen Ortman 18:32
Were you able to relax at all? No, no, of course I
Samuel Plumeri 18:35
didn't stop whenever I could get a signal. I was in the middle of the Everglades trying to get a Blackberry back then, which wasn't easy. So the rest the rest of the situation? Yeah,
Karen Ortman 18:45
you're with Port Authority. You were made superintendent or appointed superintendent in 2004. And you stayed
Samuel Plumeri 18:54
August of 2009 and 2009. Frankly, having been there for 10 years, I had felt that everything that I needed to accomplish was on a good path. Yeah, we hired the appropriate people. Our our systems are in place. Everything was working nicely. We became the testbed for everything to Homeland Security did everything the port authority did, so I felt very comfortable with that. But I was commuting every day. And with the job that I had, I could never take a train, obviously. Yeah, exactly happened. You're stuck on a train. I did want to miss my grandchildren growing up, to be perfectly honest with you. And that was the reason that I just kind of thought it was time. I really had nothing else to do. At that point in time. There were other opportunities that I was looking at, because I wasn't ready to call it a day I didn't I never liked having a People drive me back and forth. Once I got to work, I had to get you know, New York and not getting anywhere without uh, without without police drivers, especially given the geography to the Port Authority had the car.
Karen Ortman 20:13
And given your level of response, I'm sure very frequent well, that
Samuel Plumeri 20:16
all that all of that. So the Governor and I had a conversation,
Karen Ortman 20:21
had you had any familiarity up to that point as to how the state parole board functioned?
Samuel Plumeri 20:29
I'm embarrassed to say that you can surely relate to this. While you Well, it's true, not that it's a good thing, but back in the day, it's just how it was. I didn't know the difference between probation and parole.
Karen Ortman 20:46
I think a lot of people don't if they're not impacted. But
Samuel Plumeri 20:49
that was my point. Yeah. I mean, what we would do, I mean, we had a job to do, we did our job. We did our investigation. Right, we made our rush. And we moved on to the next case. And that, essentially, is what I thought it was. So I learned that process and just how all that works. Well, I'm
Karen Ortman 21:11
really interested in in talking about that. So you joined the state parole board in 2009, you joined as the vice chairman of the board, correct by
Samuel Plumeri 21:21
statute, there are Well, currently we have 14 board members and three alternates. And a chair. The chair is part of every panel by statute, Governor will select some one from the board. And does he date that person as the vice chair, he or she, and that's what he did with me. Okay. And, but that was only for a short period of time the election came, Governor Cujo. And last, Governor Christie came in. He was nice, it's attorney when I was at the Port Authority. And I had access to the site through his Office of the Governor and I had a very good working relationship, not a political one, professional one. So when he came on, I stayed as vice chair and continue doing what I was doing. It took a few years to get the division where it should be training, I can go into all the things that you know,
Karen Ortman 22:19
I want to take this opportunity to talk about your career up to this point, which is very successful, and very inspirational to somebody who, you know, is starting out as a municipal police officer somewhere and look at all you have accomplished starting out in the same way, and that could translate for others in terms of their future success. Where did this desire this work ethic come from?
Samuel Plumeri 22:50
Well, three boys, all have done different things. We were blessed. My brothers and I, to have two parents that were very supportive, great role models. My dad was all about civic engagement. He loved the city, the city of Trenton, yes, he did. He did very much involved in sports. But the community, although my dad would have loved for me to have been a doctor or a lawyer. That's not what I wanted to be. For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to be in law enforcement always. That was always something that I always wanted to be. That to them was not something that came out of left field, my choice to do that. And all that my father was a mother, again, always very supportive to anything that any of us wanted to do. I have a younger brother Paul, that's a phenomenal musician. My brother Joe, in his own right, as former CEO, and President of Willis was was the second largest insurance company in the world. It still continues to work at ad, I would have to say that that launch for me was always about knowing that I had that kind of support. And I never really had to feel guilty about pursuing what I wanted to do, if that makes sense. It does. And because I think I was just so passionate about the job, and wanting to do that, that kind of work for me. I was born and raised in North Trenton which was always a racially mixed neighborhood. So we never experienced even back then the issues that many face. So I had a comfortable way of working in, in the city in in areas that that quite frankly were mixed and felt very comfortable doing that. So for me II, all I can say is the opportunities presented themselves as a law enforcement officer, whatever I was working, and was able to just do do my job. Thank you. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 25:15
And you made reference to left field. Does that have any relation to your dad who is the founder of Trenton thunder?
Samuel Plumeri 25:25
I know we always use baseball, my family again, but my grandfather, it's all started with him. My grandfather was the original owner of the Trenton giants. That was that was that was a minor league field back then, when minor league baseball in the Northeast was unheard of. And that's what Willie Mays started, really. My grandfather brought Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, looking at that picture now my office. Wow. That's That's how there's me. My father would always talk about that. Yeah. And I could wrap my knees and none of us could about a minor league baseball team here. What does that mean? I just never saw it. So yeah, so you see it now? Yeah, well, yeah, my I will say this step four, honestly, my older brother Joe, and I thought he was crazy. Really? Yeah. Turns into the most successful Minor League franchise in the country.
Karen Ortman 26:23
See what you don't know. Yeah, still a very well attended. Ballpark even today. So it is it is quite a legacy for your family. Yeah. Yes. We're going to jump back to the parole board. Okay. You're now the chairman of the New Jersey parole board. And you have been so since 2014.
Samuel Plumeri 26:52
Yeah. Okay. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 26:56
educate our listeners, and perhaps fellow law enforcement who don't deal much with parole probation. What is the difference between probation and parole?
Samuel Plumeri 27:07
You know, each state has their own statutes throughout administrative codes and court decisions. Typically, those that do that are on probation are individuals that do lesser crimes, okay, that they can do their penalties, if you will, while they are still in the community, under supervision under probation supervision. Probation Officers in New Jersey, are not sworn parole officers are okay. In some states, they are some states you have probation and parole combined. New Jersey, we are in bit not of the Department of Corrections. Going back to 2000 probation was parole, I should say it was called the Bureau of parole within corrections then they became separated.
Karen Ortman 28:05
Samuel Plumeri 28:06
So we are independent for the most part. And like I said, we are in bit not of corrections, we report directly to to the executive staff I report to the governor. Okay. And we have just under 500 officers, for all officers. Right now. We supervise approximately 16,000 under supervision under parole super. Number. Okay. Is is
Karen Ortman 28:37
you made reference earlier to the sworn side. And then there's the board. Correct? Does the board which is comprised of
Samuel Plumeri 28:49
currently there are 14 members, okay, and three alternates and they they operate in two member panels. So each group will meet at various institutions or via video teleconference for those that are coming up for parole. And they will hear a number of cases daily
Karen Ortman 29:12
Parole Board members, are those who participate in Parole Board hearings. Correct? Correct.
Samuel Plumeri 29:19
Yes, parole board members are nominated by the governor, okay, and are confirmed by the Senate. There are prerequisites in the statute as to their backgrounds, Social Sciences, law areas that would make it so that members would have a genuine interest, as well as an education as to what it is that they're doing.
Karen Ortman 29:47
Our Parole Board members, supposed to be unbiased as opposed to advocates or adversaries related to incarcerated persons.
Samuel Plumeri 29:58
Absolutely. You are looking at, in some cases, with individuals that have had a lengthy, let's say criminal history, sometimes case files that are as big as maybe two or three old Manhattan phonebooks. If you know what I mean, I do. So it takes an awful lot of education, understanding the crimes, the individual, their psychiatric reports that go into it prior to board decisions that they evaluate, at the end of the process at the end of the interview, if you will, after reviewing and that's a whole separate thing that we could spend hours on. Yeah. But essentially, the board will take a look at the individual before them. Case History. Okay, how they've done while they've been incarcerated. Have they taken advantage of programming in the institution? If they take gotten any violations, why they've been incarcerated? These are some of the considerations that the board will make. And at the end of all this, the standard for parole is to deny parole, you have to show that there is a likelihood that if parole, the individual would reoffend.
Karen Ortman 31:24
And that burden is on the parole board. That burden
Samuel Plumeri 31:27
is on the parole board members. Actually who did i But I give reasons as to why. And of course, then there is a consideration of how much time to give the individual before they're up for parole reconsideration again. And they have a right to appeal. Yeah. Which happens frequently. I will say that the amount of appeals that are overturned have been very, very, very rare.
Karen Ortman 32:00
Yeah. Is there a presumption that the person who is applying for parole has acknowledged their guilt in the crime for which they've been sentenced? For does that not come into play at all?
Samuel Plumeri 32:16
Does it does it? You know, sometimes? It's interesting with some individuals, it depends, every one is different. Yeah. As your criminal history is different, the psychiatric background is different. Right? Everything is different. And when someone is incarcerated for a while, usually, depending on the amount of time that the sentences sometimes it takes them a few years, I mean, to really adjust and come to grips if they've taken program you'd set for if the if they open themselves to it. Yeah. And as a result of it, most people admit to the crime. Yeah. Look, I did this. Sorry about it. I, I don't know what I was thinking I was doing drugs back then. It there are so many, so many different reasons why crimes happen. You know, for someone like me, given the amount of time that I've been doing isn't the kind of work that I did, and there wasn't too much that I hadn't investigated, but it was an eye opener for me. Yeah. It really was. It kind of opened a whole new area for me that, quite frankly, embarrassingly so that I never really focused on or cared about. Yeah. Is that hardship? But that's true? Like you just Yeah, we did. We did. You know,
Karen Ortman 33:38
there are people who maintain their innocence throughout their entire sentence. Yeah, right. So how does that impact their parole hearing? It's the same way so they can so they can go in and say that you know, and maintain their innocence that is not detrimental to them in terms of the application for,
Samuel Plumeri 34:01
again, when someone comes before us, that is a lifer. Now, that requires a hearing before the full board. That's not just a two member panel, the two hour panel here the individual assess whether or not they think the date individual is ready, and they will recommend that the person goes before the full board. Okay, for that say homicide, typically is a homicide. And, again, each board member has the entire case file, everything, including confidential information, that is only the for the board members to see. Right. Not to use that to question but it's stopped by a psychiatrist that's contracted by the state. The incarcerated individual agrees to it. And that's part of the deal. decision making process as well. Because we're seeing what this individual is saying to the psychiatrist. There are recommendations that are made by the psychiatrists based on that interview. And it's an in depth psychiatric evaluation. To answer your question. I've only experienced a couple of times where people are adamant that I didn't do this. The evidence would suggest otherwise. Right? Okay. But it happens. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 35:34
For the benefit of listeners, you just referenced a lifer, meaning someone who is sentenced to life but not life without parole still can be eligible for parole. The only time they cannot be is if there's this distinction life without parole.
Samuel Plumeri 35:54
Like what? That's correct. Okay. But absent that, yes,
Karen Ortman 35:59
they can't. Are there other than the designation life without parole? Which is a sentence issued by a judge? Are there other offenses or other circumstances under which parole is not an option for an incarcerated individual?
Samuel Plumeri 36:23
Correct. There are individuals like sex offenders that will be under using that as a as a category, if you will. They're on supervision for life, saying that they're not parole, but they would be under supervision for life if they were to be released, if they were to be released. And what that means is just that they are either under electronic monitoring, depending on the individual and the crime, yeah, polygraph examinations, things of that nature. There are very specific standards that apply to individuals like that, under the statute,
Karen Ortman 37:02
once a person is incarcerated, how is their potential parole brought to the attention of the board for review?
Samuel Plumeri 37:13
Well, there's a, there's a parole counselor assigned to every institution or sometimes two or three, each inmate has the term and you do a percentage of that before you have parole eligibility to parole counselor will then evaluate and meet with that person when that time comes up. Now, there have been times where people don't even want to come before parole, they'd rather max out. Okay, so let's say that they have, I don't know, a year or two to do that's happened to rather than go through the process. And sometimes, most of the time, quite frankly, we don't tend to just release people to the street. Everyone has an opportunity for parole. Hearing. Okay. And, again, we have the hearing, if they're granted parole, usually, there's a parole plan that they have to submit to the parole counselor. So we, we want to make sure that that's solid, that the individuals that they will be living with, we want to make sure that they have a job if they can. And sometimes there are things that they need to do, especially if they've been incarcerated for a while. Yeah. So this is where our community programs come into play. And that's a very big deal.
Karen Ortman 38:34
The community programs are designated by the by parole or are they just existing resources?
Samuel Plumeri 38:43
Yes, they are existing. There are existing resources out there that we contract with, that offer different programs that the board will we happen to know all the programs that the various providers offer. And we will direct the inmate that's paroled to these programs, sometimes we will send them to what we call a halfway back, which gives them the opportunity slowly to start to get back into society, to help them write a resume, help them learn all kinds of find them a job. Yeah. So they it's just not letting people out there. Right. That's why I'm proud to say this. I mean, in New Jersey, the recidivism rate, waiting for the OSI to work those numbers again. But the recidivism rate in the country, let's do it that way. It's up. It's around 70 Some percent, New Jersey study three, that's great. So, and that's because we invest about $30 million with our contract providers. And that's the reason why By, we make sure that those individuals that go to our programs are getting what they need skills that they can apply to get themselves back into the community as law abiding productive citizens,
Karen Ortman 40:15
which is why your agency is the lead reentry organization. Yes, we are. Yep. How did you get buy in from the entire state to make this happen so that it is successful and recidivism is at a lower rate?
Samuel Plumeri 40:35
Well, obviously, most of it, you know, predates me, you know how it all started. But it started as as a result of just what we're talking about. Now, there's only so much especially when the prison population, I'll give you an example. So let's go back to 2000. And line when the prison population, incarcerated individuals was about 26,000 people incarcerated. There's 12,000. Now in state custody, but our but our supervision numbers haven't changed that much. We've always hovered around 16,000. So going back in history, when it was discovered, if you will, that was very limited, the type of programming that could be offered, while those individuals were in custody, they do some don't don't get me wrong. Now. There are programs that exist more to make individuals rather incarcerated, kind of understand focusing on the victim, what does that mean? How does that impact what you did? Yeah, things of that nature, those kinds of programs, A and A Yeah, those kinds. However, there's no programs really, that would teach individuals a skill set. Yeah. When they are released, and that's what these programs are for? That's the crux of it all. And by doing that, it's just really great. Yeah, it really is,
Karen Ortman 42:15
can you give me an example of the types of trainings that are offered to incarcerated persons while they're still in custody, and then are those same resources available upon getting out?
Samuel Plumeri 42:32
Okay, while they're in custody, the programming that is available while they're in custody, again, programs like focus on the victim, and a, a anger management, programming like that I can go on and on. But when we talking about practical skills, that will meet most of meet a lot of inmates may may work in the kitchen, and learn, you know, how to cook and things like that. But it really doesn't give them I believe, the necessary tools to take that and just go with it. Yeah. So when they are released, and we kind of find out where their interests are, that's where we try to direct them by just letting them out. Unless, of course, this happens to we may have an individual that had a skill set before they went into into custody. And they have people on the outside that are offering them full time employment, we feel comfortable with that we know to support their we know that there's a foundation for them to live securely and safely and lawfully. So every individual is different. And every direction is different, quite frankly. And that's kind of what works for those that adhere to it. And the other thing that we do, we have conditions of parole. Okay, so if we're going to parole someone on the form that the incarcerated person and newly made parolee will have, is that, okay? You must attend a a, an A in person, you must get a sponsor. I'm just using this in generalities. You need to find a job and keep the job. We have some individuals for instance, while they're incarcerated, they cut hair. We need a license to cut hair, right? So we want to make sure that when they get out, you know just a letter cut hearing yourself jammed up you're gonna get violated, right. So I mean, there are a lot of things. This is where the halfway back component. Yeah, it may be for 90 days sometimes I'll 180 days. Think about Karen. I mean, you have someone that's incarcerated for golly, on the low side, let's say 1012 years. Yeah, a lot happens already 12 years. So they need to adjust. And that's what we do best to try to help,
Karen Ortman 45:16
and you set them up for success.
Samuel Plumeri 45:19
That's that's the whole thing. I mean, the last thing in a world that we want is revocation. Right? That's not what we want to do. And parole officers key job. I mean, that's their only mission. Me, yes, I have people assigned to various task forces and things like that. But parole officers, Their function is to make sure that that individual succeeds.
Karen Ortman 45:44
Let's talk about the new grant, to help offenders with substance use disorder. My understanding is that there's a minimum of 100 110 offenders who enter the program voluntarily. That's right. And they begin receiving services six months prior to release, and then it continues one year after that. And there's
Samuel Plumeri 46:07
a there's a peer recovery code. Yeah, that's a sign to them to help them along. And it's just not, you know, office visits. It's real stuff.
Karen Ortman 46:16
How have your years of law enforcement impacted your perspective on incarcerated persons and the degree to which they can contribute to society?
Samuel Plumeri 46:28
You have those type of people that if they stay on the road, that as laid out, provided for them in terms of treatment, they have a solid foundation, they have a family support, the likelihood of them succeeding has been pretty good. Those that have been arrested for violent crimes. That's where it tends to come back. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 46:59
You would agree that there can be success upon release? For sure. Yeah.
Samuel Plumeri 47:07
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. But I see that I see that and the amount of parole revocations we have, which, that's what tells me everything. Yeah, yeah. That's what tells me everything.
Karen Ortman 47:19
Yeah. And you want to give..
Samuel Plumeri 47:20
Can you give me give me a quick one?
Karen Ortman 47:21
Samuel Plumeri 47:22
So if we're looking at so in 2021, we had approximately 898, that we revoked and sent back for various issues that, that they weren't in compliance with. In 2008, we were almost at 2500 notifications. So it's like 50%. Yeah, sure.
Karen Ortman 47:49
Really got that.
Samuel Plumeri 47:49
So that again, that tells me that our system is working. Yeah, our programming is working. Yeah. Our Board hearings are working, stuff like that.
Karen Ortman 48:02
Yeah. You're doing great work, sir.
Samuel Plumeri 48:04
I hope so. I hope so.
Karen Ortman 48:07
You've had a very successful career that has spanned a few days. I have a few under my belt.
Samuel Plumeri 48:19
It's over 50 continuous years.
Karen Ortman 48:22
And you have done outstanding work throughout those 50 years. Right? You have what are you most proud?
Samuel Plumeri 48:30
My children and my grandchildren?
Karen Ortman 48:32
I knew you're gonna say
Samuel Plumeri 48:35
I consider myself blessed. Yeah. You when we talk when we talk about the professional side of, of what we're talking about, that I was, I was given an opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, and be able to take opportunities that were given me and this is one of the few professions I think where you can see the fruits of your efforts. Yeah. Yeah. And that makes me feel very good. I mean, I'll when I visited New York, and I visited certain places, that Port Authority facilities, for instance, and I look at that, and I mean, you can see it, other people can see it, brother, I did that. I feel good about that. George Washington Bridge, we did certain things to that for obvious reasons. And we saved a lot of lives, that people will never know about. A lot of things that I'm proud of a couple greater than 911 that we stopped. So I have a lot to be thankful for and proud of. But the people that work with me, made it happen.
Karen Ortman 49:47
Is there anything that we have not talked about that you would like to share
Samuel Plumeri 49:51
that I cook pretty good?
Karen Ortman 49:53
You do? I'll have to investigate that.
Samuel Plumeri 49:59
Karen Ortman 49:59
I can ask a few people
Samuel Plumeri 50:00
You know, I just appreciate being able to talk about something that, quite frankly, has always been, I think, a mystery to those of us that have been around a long time and business, about the important work that Perl does were the best kept secret there are our officers is interesting as well. We tend to draw or first of all, you have to have a four year degree to become a parole officer. We're the only law enforcement agency, I think, that has that prerequisite to civil service agency. A they typically from the social sciences, we draw from we've gotten recruits that were one time probation officers. So I'm a DSC Sid, people that will come over, but those that want to be traditional law enforcement officers tend not to apply. And we send our recruits to Division of Criminal Justice, like the prosecutor's office. That's why I frankly, I have a class of 25 to graduate tomorrow. Oh, nice. Congratulations. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. So looking forward to that. So it was a good day.
Karen Ortman 51:14
And we didn't get much into a parole officers job. And what they do on a day to day basis, could you just talk about what a parole officer does? A parole
Samuel Plumeri 51:26
officer is given a caseload. They work out of a district office, I have district officers throughout the state of New Jersey, and just about every every county, there's a parole officers, obviously, geographically there has to be for for police division, the parole officer manages, helps those that are in his or her charge to make sure that again, as I mentioned earlier, complying with the conditions of their parole, they're going to their meetings, they're working. They're reporting, they're doing everything that you're supposed to do. And that's part of the shake, shush, getting them regimented back into society, to understand the door rules, right that you have to end. parole officers do a phenomenal job.
Karen Ortman 52:20
Yes. Does the same parole officer stay with the same client will say, for the duration of their career, the parole officers career or do they
Samuel Plumeri 52:31
move around? I mean, officers will move. We're not unlike the state police in terms of moving from district to district or a job opportunity or promotions, things of that nature, we then you know, take them away from that particular individual.
Karen Ortman 52:46
Okay. Thank you for that. And thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to talk today.
Samuel Plumeri 52:55
Great to be here. Great to see you.
Karen Ortman 52:57
My pleasure entirely. So thank you once again, to my guests, Sam and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing. Please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU is Department of campus safety and their victim services unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to you matter on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or tune