Once upon a time, the U.S. Attorney in Newark was investigating the governor in Trenton for corruption. Today, that U.S. Attorney, Chris Christie, is now a governor under investigation himself by a different U.S. Attorney, and he has formed an unlikely friendship with Jim McGreevey, the former governor he once investigated.
They came together Thursday for a conference in Jersey City on prisoner re-entry. It was a morning cloaked in the spirit of redemption, as they sat on stools in front of a crowd of hundreds of former prisoners and law enforcement professionals to speak about the need to move toward an America that rehabilitates, not incarcerates, non-violent drug offenders.
McGreevey resigned in 2004 amid a corruption scandal after it was revealed that he was cheating on his wife with a man he appointed to a high-level job. But he has since found salvation in the church, and a new mission helping released prisoners.
Christie pointed to his years on the board of a drug rehabilitation facility and as a federal prosecutor to declare the war on drugs a failure. He has moved policy to put non-violent, first-time drug offenders in rehab, rather than prison.
“You really, in terms of New Jersey, have created this seismic change in terms of treatment over incarceration,” McGreevey said to Christie.
Christie said: “To me this is the most important thing that we’ve done in the last five years to make New Jersey a better society.”
And he noted that party affiliation is irrelevant. “I know as many drug-addicted Republicans as I know drug-addicted Democrats,” Christie said.
McGreevey applauded, and Christie spoke of a friend of his who recently died after a battle with drugs and alcohol. They both spoke vaguely of their own mistakes. And in the end, McGreevey said few people had been more compassionate to him than Christie.
The meeting was convened by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who hired McGreevey to run a prisoner reentry program in his city. Fulop is one of several mayors who have accused Christie of revenge tactics, saying the governor’s cabinet members cancelled several meetings with him after he chose not to endorse Christie. Fulop said he and Christie had a pleasant conversation at the event, and did not talk about the controversy.
As Christie arrived, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman was leaving. Fishman is now the federal prosecutor who is investigating a sitting governor.