Institute Launches Campaign on June 28 to Close Youth Prisons and Reinvest in a Community-Based System of Care

On June 28, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Youth Justice New Jersey coalition will launch a campaign outside of the New Jersey Training School for Boys (“Jamesburg”)—New Jersey's largest youth prison—to demand that it and the girls' prison, the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility (“Hayes”), be closed.

“On June 28, 1867, Jamesburg opened its doors,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “And on June 28, 2017, we will launch a campaign outside of Jamesburg’s prison doors to declare that 150 years of youth incarceration is enough. We are lifting our collective voices to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care.”

More than forty organizations, including the NAACP State Conference, the ACLU of New Jersey, the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, the Drug Policy Alliance, Faith in New Jersey, houses of worship, and My Brother's Keeper-Newark have signed on-to a letter supporting this campaign.

New Jersey's juvenile justice system is plagued by extreme racial disparities. Out of the 222 youth who are incarcerated in the state's three youth prisons, just 13 are white, despite research that shows Black and white youth have similar rates of offending.

"We can and must create a system that is child-centered, treatment-focused, and community-based because all of our children deserve a second chance," said Retha Onitiri, the Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager. "There are no throwaway children." 

Community-based programs with wrap-around services have proven to be more effective in reducing recidivism than incarceration. For those youth who are in need of secure placement, the Institute advocates for small, developmentally-appropriate, treatment-focused, therapeutic environments. 

The rally will occur outside of Jamesburg, located at Grace Hill Road in Monroe Township, on June 28 from noon to 1:30 pm. Attendees can park on Grace Hill Road or at the Daniel P. Ryan Memorial Field (around the corner from the Jamesburg facility), located at 34 North State Home Road in Monroe Township, NJ 08831.

Caravans of supporters will be coming from across the state, sponsored by the following organizations or houses of worship:

Essex County:

·         (Newark) Bethany Baptist Church, My Brother’s Keeper-Newark, Youth Build

·         My Brother’s Keeper-East Orange

·         Youth Advocate Programs (youth who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system)

Middlesex County:

·         (New Brunswick) Mount Zion AME Church

·         (Highland Park) Reformed Church of Highland Park

·         Youth Advocate Programs (youth who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system)

Burlington County:

·         NAACP

Camden County:

·         Evangelism Today Christian Church

·         Youth Advocate Programs (youth who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system)

Gloucester

·         Bethel AME Church, Woodbury

Reporters who wish to travel with supporters or conduct interviews with supporters and/or NJISJ staff, should contact Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, the Institute’s Communications Director, at 917-273-7088 or ewgreenberg@njisj.org. Those interested in more information on New Jersey’s juvenile justice system, please read the Institute’s report, Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child.