News

Councilman Pushes for 'Ban the Box' Legislation in Newark

November 22, 2011 Newark Patch By Joshua Wilwohl Newark Councilman Ronald C. Rice wants ex-offenders treated equally among candidates applying for city jobs. Rice said he will propose legislation next month before city council that would ban municipal employment applications from asking about criminal history, "I want to be able to allow a person to give an explanation about their criminal history." The councilman joined roughly 20 Newark residents Monday afternoon for a public hearing about the measure. The legislation is part of a nationwide campaign called "Ban the Box," referring to the box applicants check when asked if they've been convicted of a crime. So far, 24 U.S. cities, including Boston and San Francisco, and three U.S. counties have "banned the box," according to the National Employment Law Project. In Newark, Rice's ordinance is co-sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "For people who have served their debt to society, this is an opportunity for them to get employment," said Scott Nolen, communications director of the institute, before the hearing. Rice said "Ban the Box" is a procedural law that limits asking about criminal history on initial job applications — it does not prevent employers from conducting background checks. Julien Neals, Newark's business administrator, said the Mayor Cory Booker administration supports the ordinance, "This can empower Newarkers and it's very germane to a number of the population." In the past, Booker has been a fan of programs that benefit ex-offenders, going as far as posting YouTube videos, explaining job initiatives for people previously incarcerated. The city also has its own prisoner re-entry program. Booker was unavailable for comment. Data from a 2009 prisoner re-entry study, conducted by the Manhattan Institute, showed roughly a quarter of Newark's 280,000 residents "have, at one time or another, been 'involved' with the criminal justice system." Some 1,700 ex-offenders return to the city from state prison each year and another 1,400 return from Essex County jail each month, according to the data. It's unclear if those numbers have changed in the past two years, but Nolen said his organization is conducting a study on criminal history and employment in Newark, which is expected to be released next spring. During the hour-long hearing, Rice heard from Newark residents who support the ordinance. None opposed. Nicole Singletary, 33, told the councilman she has a friend with a criminal history who applied for a job in Newark and was rejected, "Everyone should be able to have the same opportunity."

New Jersey Department of Labor Commissioner attends Women Build graduation, held by NJISJ

NEWARK, NJ - Commissioner Harold J. Wirths of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently attended a graduation ceremony for graduates of the “Women Build” program held by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ).

Ten women who completed the eight-week, pre-apprenticeship course were issued certificates during a service held inside the PSE&G Building in Newark.

The administration of Governor Chris Christie, through the Department of Labor, awarded two $300,000 grants, one each to the NJISJ and the Hispanic Family Center, to pilot the Women Build program. The initiative serves low-income and low-skilled women by preparing them for entry into construction trades and nontraditional occupations.

To read more click here.

NJISJ Executive Director, Cornell W. Brooks, testifies in front of the Equal Employment Oppportunity Commission

WASHINGTON -- Employers often refuse to hire people with arrest and conviction records even years after they have completed their sentences, leading to recidivism and higher social services costs, experts told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at a meeting today at agency headquarters. The meeting was part of a series convened by the EEOC to examine the implications of various hiring practices. In addition to laying out the scope of the issue, the meeting was designed to identify and highlight employers’ best practices, ways in which arrest and conviction records have been used appropriately, and current legal standards. Click here to read more

NJISJ Argues the Juvenile Court has an Obligation to Address Mistreatment of Juveniles Sentenced to Juvenile Detention

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is participating as amicus curiae before the state Appellate Division in State ex rel. O.S., a case considering whether the State’s Juvenile Courts have the ongoing authority to review the conditions of confinement after youths are adjudicated delinquent and sentenced to state custody. O.S. was repeatedly assaulted by other youths—so severely that his jaw was broken—and denied care while in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Commission. He appealed to the juvenile court which had sentenced him, seeking to be moved to another facility. The court refused to hear O.S.’s case, reasoning that it had authority over his sentencing but not the ongoing conditions of his confinement. Amici argue that the Juvenile Court has both the authority and the obligation to protect children like O.S. from abuse. Upon sentencing, O.S. became a ward of the state and the Juvenile Court System undertook a duty to maintain his safety and security, as well as to promote his rehabilitation. Without the ability to turn to the juvenile court, O.S. and youths like him would be left without meaningful legal recourse to address abuse. The only available alternative, the internal grievance procedures, would require youths without the assistance of an attorney to bring their complaints to the very organization that they allege had denied them protection and treatment. NJISJ and its Legal Program, via NJISJ’s Equal Justice Initiative, are committed to improving juvenile justice in New Jersey. NJISJ believes that addressing the treatment and ensuring the rights of children sentenced to state custody is critical both to bettering the lives of these children and to addressing systemic criminal justice and urban poverty issues. NJISJ is joined by amici the Rutgers Urban Legal Clinic, the Juvenile Law Center, the National Juvenile Defender Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, and Advocates for Children of New Jersey. To read the Amicus brief, click here.

Kyle Smiddie, NJISJ Intern, Headed for USDOJ Honors Program

Kyle Smiddie ’11 was raised to believe that what a person does for, and with, others who are less fortunate is the measure of that person’s worth. It was the lesson taught by his parents – a potter and a school psychologist – on their 45-acre farm in Appalachia, surrounded by a community marked by poverty and struggle. And it was the reason for his applying to the highly-competitive U.S. Department of Justice’s Honors Program, the only way for entry-level attorneys to join the DOJ.