Next Avenue: How to Fix Racial Inequities in the Workplace

Next Avenue reports:

Another panelist, Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, noted that only 18 percent of all jobs in Newark, where his institute is based, are held by local residents. (In Newark, 49 percent of residents are African American; 36 percent are Hispanic.) By contrast, 33 percent of jobs in Baltimore are held by local residents and 45 percent of jobs in New Orleans are.

Newark’s 18 percent rate isn’t so low because of an unwillingness of its residents to work, Haygood noted. And it’s not because Newarkers have criminal convictions preventing them from being hired, or comprise an exceptionally high percentage of people without college degrees. “We found the same incidence of convictions as in most other U.S. cities,” he said. “The percentage of people in Newark with college degrees — one-third — is consistent with the national trend.”

No, Haygood said, the reason so few blacks in Newark are working is “that the system has been designed to produce the kind of results we see.”

Scott Novakowski: End the Racist Epidemic of Criminal Disfranchisement

Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski writes for the Star Ledger:

On Nov. 7, New Jersey voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots to elect state legislators and a new governor, officials who will make critical decisions on issues that affect the lives of New Jerseyans - including who has the right to vote. 

More than 94,000 residents will be barred from voting on Election Day because of a criminal conviction.  Under New Jersey's anti-democratic law, the right to vote is denied to anyone serving a sentence for a criminal conviction, which includes those who are incarcerated as well as those who have been released but are on parole or probation. Three quarters of those disfranchised are living in the community while completing a term of parole or probation

New Jersey's criminal disfranchisement law dates back to 1844, over 170 years ago at a time when racial exclusion was the law of the land. In 1844, slavery was legal and practiced in our state. In 1844, the Fourteenth Amendment had not yet guaranteed equal protection of the law to black residents. And, in 1844, black residents were prohibited from voting in New Jersey, thanks to an 1807 state law that limited the franchise to white males only. (In fact, New Jersey was the first state in the Northeast to limit the franchise to white males.)

Institute Statement on Latino Youth Incarceration Disparity Rates

New Jersey has one of the worst incarceration disparity rates for Latino youth in the country, according to The Sentencing Project’s new fact sheet. Latino youth in New Jersey are five times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated. This research comes just a few weeks after The Sentencing Project released a report showing that Black youth in New Jersey are more than 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers – the worst disparity rate in the country.

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood issued the following statement in response to The Sentencing Project’s new fact sheet:

“Once again, New Jersey leads the country in racial disparities. Latino kids are five times and Black kids are 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers. These disparities are not because children of color are more criminally culpable than white children. It is because of a racially discriminatory justice system that treats children of color as throwaway kids and disproportionately funnels them into prison. But we are clear on this point: There are no throwaway kids.  These staggering racial disparities are just one of the many reasons why we must close New Jersey’s youth prisons and reinvest in the creation of a youth justice system that treats all kids as kids, with limitless possibilities.”

Out of the 222 youth who are incarcerated in the state’s three youth prisons as of January 1, 2017, just 13 are white, 61 are “Hispanic,” and 148 are Black, according to a document received via an OPRA request by the Institute. 

In The Sentencing Project’s announcement, they noted that, “while the fact sheets only highlight incarceration disparities, differential treatment of youth of color – not differences in behaviors – drives the scale of the disparities.” This important point was echoed in Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian’s recent OpEd for the Star Ledger in which she wrote that racial discrimination causes these disparities.

Andrea McChristian: How discrimination is sending more Black kids to prison

Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian writes for the Star Ledger:

It's usually a good thing to be No. 1. New Jersey, however, is a leader in two intolerable ways: Our state has the highest rate of black-white youth incarceration disparity and the highest rate of black-white adult state prison incarceration disparity in the country.

A black child in New Jersey is 30.64 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child, according to a fact sheet by the Sentencing Project. This is a rate double that of the second state on the list, Wisconsin...

Help Protect Democracy: Volunteer on Election Day

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is leading an on-the-ground effort on Election Day, November 7, to ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote. The Institute is seeking volunteers who will be out on Election Day to:

  • Observe the voting process.
  • Assist voters who have trouble at the polls.
  • Distribute voter empowerment materials
  • Report any irregularities that occur to the Election Protection Program voter hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE.

The Institute will train all volunteers. To volunteer, please contact Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski at Please include a few sentences about yourself, your availability on Election Day, and a contact phone number.

New Jersey Has the Highest Black/white Youth Committment/Detention Disparity Rate in the Country

The Institute issued the following statement in response to data released from The Sentencing Project that shows New Jersey has the worst Black/white youth commitment/detention racial disparity rate in the country:


Institute's Demelza Baer Interviewed on Census Data

Demelza Baer, Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative, spoke with the Star Ledger and NJ Spotlight on the new Census data on poverty and inequality.

From the Star Ledger:

Demelza Baer, senior counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, points to several possible factors as to why New Jersey has fallen behind in closing the gender gap.

New Jersey has seen a "hollowing out" of middle class wage earners as reflected in the state's high income inequality, Baer said...

Also, there are still structural barriers for women in the workforce to advance to better paying jobs -- the lack of inexpensive child care and discrimination in employment and job promotion, experts say.  

"We need to have policy responses to this," Baer said. "What we need to see is more of a specific effort to make sure that women, especially women of color, are on track to join middle skills jobs [that require more than a high school but less than a bachelor's degree] that pay a living wage and allow for upward mobility."

Demelza Baer's Work Featured in Governing

Governing reports: 

In Newark, N.J., where the unemployment rate is well above the state and national average, less than 20 percent of the jobs are filled by Newark residents. In Baltimore, a third of residents have jobs in the city where they live. In New Orleans, it’s 46 percent.

Among the city's 20 biggest employers -- colleges, hospitals and corporate headquarters -- only three percent of the money they spend on buying goods and services goes to vendors in Newark.

This helps to explain why one in three Newark residents live below the poverty line and why the city lost population for decades. But Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants to turn those numbers around. His solution -- an initiative called Hire. Buy. Live. -- could provide other local governments with a playbook, some say, for spurring economic development in a way that prioritizes the welfare of residents...