PASSAIC — Gov. Phil Murphy is defending his hiring of a former corrupt city councilman who went to prison for taking bribes.

Marcellus Jackson will be paid an annual salary of $70,000 to work as a special assistant with the Department of Education. The hiring was first reported by Politico, which said Jackson will work specifically in the office of civic and social engagement.

"Somebody made a mistake, they admitted it, they repented, they paid their price," Murphy said Tuesday when asked about Jackson during an education event in Carteret. "We have to get these folks back up on their feet in society in this state."

The governor called New Jersey "one of the harshest states" for people in situations like Jackson to get back on their feet. He said Jackson had "done all of the above and I think we should all accept that as the new norm."

Jackson will work with "various stakeholders, faith-based groups and other community and civic organizations to advance public education in New Jersey," Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple told Politico.

"Mr. Jackson is remorseful for his actions, he has taken responsibility, and he has since paid his debt to society,"

Jackson was one of 11 people arrested in 2007 after pleading guilty to obstructing interstate commerce by extortion. He was sentenced to 25 months in prison and was released in July 2011.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report