Theoretically, with proper data analysis, policymakers can make more informed decisions regarding public safety issues without “aggravating existing racial disparities,” according to a statement issued by the Sentencing Project, an initiative that works for a fair and effective U.S. justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy. The organization, which worked with several state partners in pushing the legislation (including Rev. Charles Boyer who leads a coalition called Salvation and Social Justice, Drug Policy Alliance – NJ; ditto the ACLU of New Jersey) also advocates for alternatives to incarceration and seeks to address unjust racial disparities and practices. To that end, in 2016, a study by The Sentencing Project found that New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of black/white disparity in incarceration.
“New Jersey has the worst black/white youth incarceration disparity rate in the country. Even though black and white kids commit most offenses at similar rates, a black child is, incredibly, 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child. As a result, just 13 white children are incarcerated in New Jersey as of January of this year,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (the Institute) in a statement issued on its website in September 2017.
“We know that all kids can be saved. These striking racial disparities reflect racially discriminatory policy decisions that determine which kids get prison and which kids do not in New Jersey. We cannot support this shameful system of youth incarceration. It is, at its core, racialized, ineffective and destructive to youth and their families. It is a moral stain on our state,” Haygood’s statement continued.
In a prior report published by the Institute in December 2016, entitled “Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child,” it was found that black youth comprise nearly 75 percent of those committed to both secure and non-secure state juvenile facilities.