Andrea McChristian Selected as New Leaders Council 2018 Fellow


The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice congratulates Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian on being selected as a New Leaders Council 2018 FellowThe New Leaders Council Institute is the premier leadership and professional development, training, mentoring, networking, and career and political advancement program for young professionals.



1844 No More: Media Round-Up

NJ Spotlight reports

The first civil rights legislation to reach Phil Murphy’s desk once he becomes governor may be a bill that will give convicted felons the right to vote, whether they are on parole, probation, or in prison. As it stands now, only those who complete the terms of their probation are allowed to register to vote. That amounts to over 94,300 people in the state, according to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

NJTV reports:

“We’re silencing a significant segment of the population. In 2016, a little over five percent of New Jersey’s Black, voting age population was denied the right to vote,” said Scott Novakowski, the report’s author and associate counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

One reason is that in New Jersey, Black adults are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.

NJ 101.5 reports:

Novakowski pointed out New Jersey leads the nation in having the highest racial disparities in Black vs. white incarceration rates among adults and youth.

“A Black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult, and a Black youth is staggeringly 30 times more likely to be detained or committed than their white peer.”

He stated “a significant proportion of these disparities cannot be explained by differing rates of offending.”

“By continuing to link the fundamental right to vote with involvement in the criminal justice system, New Jersey’s law ensures that these disparities are reproduced within our electorate.”

WBGO reports:

North Jersey resident Ronald Pierce is on parole after his criminal conviction and is not allowed to vote. He says voting can be an effective part of rehabilitation for people who are incarcerated.

"When a person engages in meaningful dialogue about civic concerns, it opens them up to seeing beyond their personal needs and shifts their focus to issues that affect the community.”

Observer reports:

A recent report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice found that New Jersey currently prohibits 94,000 individuals from voting due to criminal history or incarceration. The report found that a disproportionate amount of those disenfranchised by the voting law are African American. In New Jersey, about 15 percent of the total population is black but about 50 percent of those currently incarcerated in the state are Black...

“I believe we have a governor who understands civil rights, I really believe that,” Rice said of Murphy. “This is going to be our civil rights governor. But we have to get it to his desk.”

CBS Philly reports:

New Jersey’s voting ban on those incarcerated or on probation and parole dates back to 1844. A study conducted by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice concludes decades of racial inequality in the criminal justice system have resulted in blacks 12 times more likely to be jailed than whites, and therefore denied the right to vote.

“We have to erase this moral stain on our democracy by ending New Jersey’s practice of denying voting rights based on criminal convictions,” Institute President Ryan Haygood told KYW Newsradio, “and restoring the right to vote to nearly 100,000 people who are either on probation, parole or in prison.”

92.7 WOBM reports:

“Despite being only about 15 percent of the state’s population, black people make up about half of those denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction,” said Scott Novakowski, an associate counsel with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the author of the report.

“This is a direct result of importing the racial disparities of the criminal justice system into the electorate.”

He noted it was back in 1844 when New Jersey broadly denied the right to vote based on a criminal conviction.

“This report provides an important historical context of the history of New Jersey’s law that denies people with criminal convictions the right to vote, but it also looks at the impact of this law,” he said. reports:

“Despite being only about 15 percent of the state’s population, Black people make up around half of those denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction,” Novakowski said. “This is a direct result of importing the racial disparities of the criminal justice system into the electorate.”

They were joined on a conference call by others from the ACLU and other organizations, as well as state legislators who plan to introduce a bill to change the law, although they concede past efforts have not succeeded. This time, though, they point to Governor-elect Phil Murphy, who they expect to support such a plan.

Demelza Baer: How the #TaxBill Will Harm Communities of Color

Institute Senior Counsel Demelza Baer writes in Next City:

In addition to undermining access to healthcare and affordable housing, these tax bills also represent a grave threat to education and educational opportunity. At a time when the cost of higher education is increasingly out of reach and millions of Americans are struggling to pay their student loans, the House bill would repeal the student loan interest deduction. Over 12 million people currently take this deduction, which allows some taxpayers to lower their taxable income by $2,500 as they repay their loans. This would particularly hurt students and graduates of color, because they have more student loan debt — black graduates have on average twice the student loan debt of white graduates.

Ryan Haygood in the Star Ledger: How NJ Can Lead the County on Social Justice

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes for the Star Ledger:

New Jersey is poised to serve as national bright light for progressive action.

At the Institute, our eyes are focused on this moment to work with our partners, our new governor, and elected officials to advance solutions to some of the greatest social and racial justice challenges of our time -- including income inequality, reimagining youth justice, and building an inclusive democracy...

It is clear that change will happen, as it always has, from the ground up in our communities.

Together, we can lift up these critical issues to make New Jersey a standard bearer for social and racial justice.

Together, we can do social justice.


TAPinto: Somerville Forum Examines Issues with Justice System

TAPinto reports:

Another presenter was James Williams IV, a juvenile justice field organizer at the NJ Institute for Social Justice. He briefly explored the racial aspect of the issue, informing the audience that in New Jersey, blacks are 30 times more likely to be incarcerated; he also said that 1 in every 13 black Americans cannot vote.

Williams detailed that one time, he heard a woman say the criminal justice system was perfect, and initially didn’t agree. However, he went on to add the conclusion he eventually came to.

"The system is doing perfectly...we’re great at locking up people of color," he said.

A statistics sheet that was given to audience members at the beginning disclosed even more - one in every six black men have been imprisoned since 2001, or that five times as many whites are using drugs compared to African-Americans, yet African-Americans are incarcerated for drug-related crimes at a rate ten times higher than that of whites.

WBGO: Newark Art Exhibit Brings Advocates Together To Discuss Mass Incarceration

WBGO reports:

There’s been a sharp decline in the number of young people jailed in New Jersey.  Andrea McChristian with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice says it didn’t come without racial disparities. 

“In the nation, New Jersey has the worst black to white racial disparity rate.  We have the second worst Latino to white youth incarceration rate in the nation, only coming behind Wisconsin.”

McChristian says as of June 2017, there are 234 inmates in New Jersey’s youth prisons.  About seventy-percent of them are African American.

“Youth incarceration and incarceration as a whole are a racial justice issue.  If we were seeing for example the same sympathy for our kids of color that we are seeing with other children in terms of the opioid crisis, this would be a national issue.  If these were white kids locked away in these youth prisons at these alarming rates, it would be a national issue on everyone’s tongue.”


Show you #dosocialjustice with a #dosocialjustice tote bag

As a new year approaches with a new administration in the State House, New Jersey is poised to serve as a national bright light for transformative change.

With your partnership, we will work together to ensure that urban residents live in a New Jersey that respects their humanity, provides equality of economic opportunity, empowers them to use their voice in the political process, and protects equal justice.

But we need your help to make this vision a reality.

Please make a donation to the Institute today here. For those who sign up for a monthly contribution of at least $19 -- in honor of the Institute's upcoming 19th birthday -- we will send our #dosocialjustice tote bag as our thanks to you.

This moment provides us with a mandate that must guide us each day: to realize social justice, we must do social justice. Here at the Institute, we are clear that change will happen, as it always has, from the ground up in our communities.

Together, let's do social justice.