On May 2, 2017, the day after the Institute's social justice forum with nine gubernatorial candidates, the Institute released, A Social Justice Vision for New Jersey.
The report details proposals in the areas of Economic Mobility, Criminal Justice Reform, and Civic Engagement.
The Institute recommends, among other proposals:
Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour in New Jersey. As one of the wealthiest states in the nation, with one of the highest costs of living, New Jersey should phase in an increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, starting immediately by raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Research shows that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would not produce any net economic drawbacks, which is especially true in New Jersey given the many competitive economic advantages that our state has. Most importantly, raising the minimum wage will increase the ability of many individuals and families in the state to support themselves, lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty, and reducing the gender and race pay gaps in the state.
Close Hayes and Jamesburg Youth Prisons. New Jersey must end the failed experiment of youth incarceration by closing Hayes and Jamesburg—the state’s girls’ youth prison and the largest youth prison for boys, respectively. Incredibly, two-thirds of kids incarcerated in New Jersey’s youth prisons are Black, even though Black and white youth commit similar offenses at similar rates. New Jersey’s system of incarceration is based on racialized policies that treat certain children as children, while forcing others—particularly children of color—into incarceration. Locking up our kids in large youth prisons harms them irreparably at a critical stage in their development and, as 80 percent of youth have a new court filing or are rearrested within a few years after release, perpetuates racial disparities. Though it fails to reduce recidivism or increase public safety, it nevertheless costs New Jersey taxpayers over $200,000 per year to incarcerate each child.
Restore Voting Rights to People with Criminal Convictions. New Jersey should restore the right to vote to the over 94,000 people currently disfranchised because of a criminal conviction. Currently, a person convicted of a felony must complete all terms of their sentence—including parole and probation—before their voting rights are restored. Three-quarters of those disfranchised, over 70,000 people, are living in our communities, raising families, and paying taxes. Laws that disfranchise people with a criminal conviction also disproportionately impact communities of color due to racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. As New Jersey continues its public dialogue around criminal justice reform, it is important that those most deeply impacted by the criminal justice system are able to make their voices heard.
To read the full report, please click here.