News

Amsterdam News: ‘Bring Our Children Home’: Lawmakers, advocates call for closure of New Jersey girls’ prison

Amsterdam News reports:

Wednesday, Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian released her report, “Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey’s Youth,” which details the transformation of the Bordentown campus, as well as the modern-day, devastating impact of the school-to-prison pipeline on New Jersey’s youth of color.

According to the report, over the 2013-2014 school year, although Black girls made up only 16.2 percent of female students in New Jersey, they made up an estimated half of girls receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions, 30.2 percent of girls receiving expulsions with or without educational services, 37.6 percent of girls subjected to school-related arrests and 33.9 percent of girls referred to law enforcement...

“It is imperative that we rebuild our youth justice system to be transformative and prioritize rehabilitation,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “The solutions to reform our criminal justice system must begin with affirming and preserving the humanity of our children. By closing down Hayes we are shutting one of the revolving doors of recidivism and recommitting ourselves to community uplift and support of our youth to help them thrive into adulthood.”

NJTV: Rutgers-Newark Establishes New Center to Confront Racism

NJTV reports:

“I think if this country needs anything, it needs at this moment more truth, it needs more racial healing and it certainly needs more transformation. The work that we do at the Institute for Social Justice really thinks about how, to the mayor’s point, how to transform systems that advance racial inequality,” said president and CEO of the institute, Ryan Haygood.

National Crittenton Features Andrea McChristian's Report in Newsletter

National Crittenton's monthly newsletter, Centering Girls in Systems Change, highlights Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian's new report, Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey’s Youth:

new publication from New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s Andrea McChristian reports “two-thirds of [New Jersey’s] incarcerated girls have been involved with both the child welfare system and the youth justice system, and all of them have a mental health diagnosis.”

TAPintoNewark: Rutgers University-Newark launches Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center

TAPintoNewark reports:

President and CEO of the NJIT Institute for Social Justice Ryan Haygood said the time is ripe for change and social justice.

"If we ever needed truth, racial healing, and transformation, we need it in abundance now," Haygood said. "That's what the TRHT Campus Center will help bring to our city and state more broadly. This is a difficult national moment, to be sure. And change, resistance, and social justice will occur from the ground up, starting on our campuses in our communities."

Andrea McChristian's Report Featured as NJ Spotlight's Number of the Day

NJ Spotlight reports:

Although black students make up 16 percent of total school enrollment in New Jersey, they were 43.7 percent of those who received one or more out-of-school suspensions during the 2013-2014 school year, according to a new report.

The report, "Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey's Youth," released on Wednesday by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, shows that black students are disproportionately represented in numerous types of disciplinary actions reported to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. For instance, the report found that African-American students made up 35.3 percent of students getting an in-school suspension, 37 percent of those expelled, 34.5 percent of school-related arrests, and 31.4 percent of referrals to law enforcement.

"These racial disparities do not reflect greater culpability of black children than their white peers, as black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates," said Andrea McChristian, the primary author of the report and the institute's associate counsel. "Rather, these disparities exist, in part, because of our schools' inability to see black children as children. Our new youth justice system must view all children as children, and provide them with the grace, compassion, and support they need."

101.5: NJ spends $250k per juvenile inmate - turn jail into school, report says

101.5 reports:

"Youth incarceration is financially wasteful," said report author Andrea McChristian on a call with reporters. "In addition, our system of youth incarceration perpetuates racial disparities."

A black child in New Jersey, the report notes, is at least 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child, even though children of both races commit most offenses at about the same rate.

The state spends $250,000 each year per child to "maintain this broken system of incarceration," the Institute says.

"When I think, $250,000 — my goodness," said state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), who also participated in the teleconference. "What could we do with that money if it were focused in a more positive way?"

 

WHYY: N.J. group calls for reopening former prep school for African-Americans

WHYY reports:

“Our proposal for a modern Bordentown School — with a focus on promoting racial understanding, a celebration of diversity, and the empowerment of students of color — can begin to counter the lasting legacy of excluding students of color,” said ISJ associate counsel Andrea McChristian, who wrote the report.

Institute Releases: Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey’s Youth

Legislators and Educators Call for an Investment in a Prison-to-School Pipeline in New Jersey:

Close New Jersey’s Girls’ Prison and Reopen the Bordentown School

On February 28, Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian released her report, Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey’s Youth, which details the Bordentown campus’ transformation from school to prison, as well as the modern-day, devastating impact of the school-to-prison pipeline on New Jersey’s youth of color. In conjunction with the report's release, the Institute convened a press call with leading legislators and educators to call for New Jersey to build a prison-to-school pipeline by closing the only girls’ youth prison and rebuilding the Bordentown School.

A copy of the report can be found here. A copy of the accompanying policy brief can be found here

“It is imperative that we rebuild our youth justice system to be transformative and prioritize rehabilitation,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “The solutions to reform our criminal justice system must begin with affirming and preserving the humanity of our children. By closing down Hayes we are shutting one of the revolving doors of recidivism and recommitting ourselves to community uplift and support of our youth to help them thrive into adulthood. Beyond closing down this facility, I am proud that the state of New Jersey is taking the lead toward racial and social justice that will ultimately move this nation toward a more perfect union.”  

“Our new youth justice system must begin to correct the inequities and heal the pain felt by families of color who have been victimized by the youth justice system,” added Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. “Black children in New Jersey are over 30 times more likely than their white peers to be detained or committed, even though black and white children commit most offenses at similar rates. These shameful disparities exist and persist because of racially discriminatory policy decisions that disproportionately impact African-American children.”

Today, Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian is releasing her report Bring Our Children Home: A Prison-to-School Pipeline for New Jersey’s Youth, which details the Bordentown campus’ transformation from school to prison, as well as the modern-day, devastating impact of the school-to-prison pipeline on New Jersey’s youth of color. 

For more than fifty years, New Jersey ran the Bordentown School, an elite public boarding school for black youth. Known as the "Tuskegee of the North," the school attracted visits from luminaries like W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, Albert Einstein, and Paul Robeson. Today, however, the campus is home to the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility, known as Hayes, New Jersey's only youth prison for girls.

“The Bordentown campus, once a pinnacle of black uplift, is home to Hayes, New Jersey’s only youth prison for girls. And across the street sits the Juvenile Medium Security Facility, New Jersey’s most secure youth prison for boys,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “Bordentown is, literally, the school to prison pipeline realized.”

According to the Institute's report’s findings:

  • During the 2013-2014 school year, black students, who made up about 16% of total enrollment in New Jersey, made up an estimated 35.3% of students receiving one or more in-school suspensions, 43.7% of students receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions, and 37% of students receiving expulsions with or without educational services. Black students in the state also made up an estimated 34.5% of school-related arrests and 31.4% of referrals to law enforcement.
  • Over the 2013-2014 school year, while black girls made up only 16.2% of female students in New Jersey, they made up an estimated half (50.4%) of girls receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions, 30.2% of girls receiving expulsions with or without educational services, 37.6% of girls subject to school related arrests, and 33.9% of girls referred to law enforcement.
  • As of June 1, 2017, there are 232 youth incarcerated in New Jersey’s three youth prisons. Of this number, 163 are black and only eighteen are white. Of the twelve girls in prison at Hayes, the majority (75%) are black.

“These racial disparities do not reflect greater culpability of black children than their white peers, as black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates,” said primary author and Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian. “Rather, these disparities exist, in part, because of our schools’ inability to see black children as children. Our new youth justice system must view all children as children, and provide them with the grace, compassion, and support they need.”

In response to the Institute’s 150 Years is Enough campaign, former Governor Chris Christie announced one of the most significant youth justice reforms in more than a century: New Jersey will close two of its failed youth prisons—Hayes and the New Jersey Training School for Boys (also known as Jamesburg)—and build two smaller youth rehabilitation centers based on national best practices.

The Institute’s report makes the following proposals:

Close Hayes: Following the Christie administration’s historic announcement, the state must take immediate steps to close Hayes. Incarcerating our state’s girls in a faraway and largely empty youth prison is a failed experiment that conflicts with national best practices.

Reopen the Bordentown School: New Jersey must take immediate steps to close Hayes and create a prison-to-school pipeline in its place by reinvesting funds into rebuilding a modern Bordentown School. The new Bordentown School should attract and retain New Jersey students from a range of racial, financial, and other demographics. The school curriculum and programming should be centered on racial and social justice, reconciliation, and the celebration of diverse voices and backgrounds.

Conduct a Qualitative Study of the School-to-Prison Pipeline: The New Jersey Department of Education should conduct a statewide, comprehensive school-to-prison pipeline qualitative study. The research should include focus groups and interviews with students, families, teachers, school law enforcement, guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, administrators, and others involved with school environments, and should primarily target school districts with high rates of suspensions, expulsions, law enforcement referrals, and arrests. 

Improve Data Collection Efforts: Although the federal Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) is a mandatory data collection, it is missing data from key jurisdictions—such as the entire Newark public school district. The CRDC must engage the necessary accountability measures to ensure collection from all schools throughout the nation and should clearly publicize what jurisdictions (if any) are not included in the collection, and why. The New Jersey Department of Education should also disaggregate statewide data on expulsions and suspensions by race and gender.   

“If we truly want to end the school-to-prison pipeline in this state, we will take the recommendations offered seriously and inject these ideas into every aspect of how we discuss, design, and implement educational policies and reform,” said Dr. Lauren Wells, who specializes in public education and designing education to cultivate and nurture the intellect, talent, and self-determination of black and brown children. “Reopening the Bordentown School would serve as a critical marker of our commitment to this work."

Legislation Introduced to Restore Voting Rights to People with Convictions

To learn more about the #1844NoMore campaign please click here.

On February 26 at 11:00 AM, Senator Ronald L. Rice, Senator Sandra Cunningham, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice hosted a press conference to announce the introduction of legislation to end New Jersey’s practice of denying the right to vote to people with criminal convictions.

“Today is a historic day. Today is the anniversary of Congress’ approval of the 15th Amendment, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting,” said Senator Rice, primary sponsor of the Senate bill. “But almost 150 years after its adoption a disproportionate number of Black New Jerseyans are still denied the right to vote. Our bill seeks to realize the promise of the 15th Amendment by severing the link between the fundamental right to vote and involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Joining Senator Rice, Senator Cunningham, Assemblywoman Sumter, and the Institute in their call for the restoration of voting rights for people with convictions are almost eighty organizations, including the ACLU of New Jersey, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Association on Correction, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.  For a list of organizations that support the restoration of voting rights for people on parole, on probation, and in prison, please click here.

Senator Cunningham, primary sponsor of the Senate bill, and Assemblywoman Sumter, primary sponsor of the companion bill in the Assembly, urged New Jersey leaders to be bold.

“I call on Governor Murphy and my colleagues to be bold,” said Senator Cunningham. “If we are serious about criminal justice reform and access to democracy, New Jersey must guarantee the fundamental right to vote to all its citizens, whether in prison or living in the community while on parole or probation.”

“New Jersey can lead the nation as a model of racial justice and inclusive democracy with the enactment of this bill," said Sumter, Assembly Majority Conference Leader. "The privilege to participate in the election process is a constitutional right afforded every American regardless of background, race, or status.  Every person of voting age should have the ability to cast their ballot without interference and without judgement of their personal history. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we achieve the highest democratic ideal.”

New Jersey enacted its first broad ban on voting by people with criminal convictions in 1844, the same year it adopted a state Constitution that restricted voting to white men and a time when slavery was still legal in New Jersey, according to the Institute’s report, We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote.

“New Jersey’s ban on voting for people in prison, on parole, or on probation remains a moral stain on our state,” said Ryan Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “We are proud to stand here today to demand an end to this anti-democratic practice and declare that we are 1844 no more.”

Mayor Ras Baraka (Newark), Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla (Hoboken), Mayor Steve Fulop (Jersey City), Mayor Adrian Mapp (Plainfield), and Mayor Michael Venezia (Bloomfield), have also declared their support for ending the state’s ban on voting for people with convictions.

“As the mayor of Hoboken and as a civil rights attorney, I am proud to condemn our state’s practice of denying the right to vote to people with convictions,” said Mayor Bhalla. “The practice is undemocratic and it is unjust. It is time for New Jersey to restore the fundamental right to vote to those on parole, on probation, and in prison.”

Just five counties—Essex, Camden, Hudson, Monmouth, and Ocean—are home to almost half of those removed from the rolls. Those same five counties contain 46 percent of the state’s Black population.

“This is a racial justice issue,” said Mayor Baraka. “By linking the right to vote to an institution infected with racism, we are systematically disfranchising Black voters. And it’s having a disproportionate impact on our urban areas. This is as shameful a practice as poll taxes or literacy tests.”

Although Black people comprise just 15 percent of New Jersey's overall population, they represent, incredibly, about half of those who have lost their voting rights as a result of a criminal conviction, according to the Institute’s report, We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote.

“Taking away the right to vote from anyone, for any reason, undermines the very notion of democracy,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “As the world’s largest jailer, with a prison system that has racial inequality as a hallmark, our government lacks moral authority to strip anyone of their electoral power. Everyone deserves to have a say in a democracy. A criminal conviction does not erase our humanity, and it should not invalidate our voice.”

Overall, 5.28 percent of New Jersey’s Black voting age population was denied the right to vote in the 2016 Presidential election, a rate over twice that of many of our neighbors in the Northeast.

“Denying people the right to vote because of a criminal conviction is not only anti-democratic but it is immoral. The right to vote is a fundamental right,” added Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Woodbury. “Due, in part, to systemic racism in the criminal justice system, this fundamental right is being denied to a disproportionate number of Black New Jerseyans.”

New Jersey currently denies the right to vote to more than 94,000 people with criminal convictions—more than the total population of Trenton, the state’s capital, according to theInstitute’s report

“As a formerly incarcerated person who now leads two successful businesses and works to help people returning from prison develop job and leadership skills, I can tell you that being part of the community and having a voice in the decisions that shape that community is essential to successful rehabilitation and reentry,” said Tracey Syphax, an entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker, and a White House “Champion of Change” honoree.

Institute Legal Intern and Rutgers University student Ronald Pierce is denied the right to vote because he is currently on parole.

“This law strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a human being,” said Pierce. “What is a democracy if you don’t have the right to vote? To strip an individual of their fundamental right to vote is to deny that individual their personhood. To vote has value to the soul.”

Almost eighty organizations have signed on in support of restoring voting rights to people on parole, on probation, and in prison, including direct service organizations, student groups, the business community, the re-entry and corrections field, labor, racial justice groups, women’s organizations, and many others.

“The broad support that we’ve seen from the community—almost eighty organizations in support—is a testament to how deeply New Jersey residents value the fundamental right to vote,” said Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski, primary author of the Institute’s report, We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote. “Just as we do not deny a person the fundamental right to medical care or the right to practice their religion on account of a felony conviction, we should not deny people their fundamental democratic voice. We can, and must, do better.”

“This is a matter of democracy,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “By restoring the right to vote to people with convictions, this bill will help create a more inclusive democracy in New Jersey.”

National organizations, including Demos, the ACLU, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have also endorsed the campaign to restore voting rights to people with convictions in New Jersey.

“When more citizens are able to participate in our democracy, we strengthen our core values of justice, fairness, and inclusivity,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We applaud Senators Rice and Cunningham, and Assemblywoman Sumter, for introducing this important legislation. Criminal disfranchisement laws are rooted in the post-Civil War era, were used to prevent freed slaves from voting, and have disproportionate impact on African Americans. We urge swift passage of this legislation to ensure that all people are able to participate fully in their democracy.”

Note to reporters: When referring to people who are denied the right to vote we politely ask that you use the following phrases: people with convictions, people on parole, people on probation, people in prison, or people who are incarcerated. We kindly ask you to avoid dehumanizing language like convicts, criminals, or felons.

JOIN US to say: We Are 1844 No More

The Institute invites you  to join us on Monday, February 26 at a press conference to introduce historic legislation that will restore voting rights to nearly 100,000 people on probation, parole, and in prison. To learn more about New Jersey's disfranchisement bill, please read the Institute's report, We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote

Joining us will be the authors of the legislation, Senator Ronald Rice, Senator Sandra Cunningham, and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter. Our colleagues from the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, ACLU of New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey will also join us, along with people in New Jersey who have been denied the right to vote, community leaders, Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and Reverend Charles Boyer, among others.

The press conference will be held on Monday, February 26 -- the anniversary of Congress's approval of the 15th Amendment -- at 11:00 AM at the State House, located at 125 W. State Street in Trenton, NJ, in Room 103. Please RSVP to Communications Director Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg at ewgreenberg@njisj.org as space is limited.

New Jersey first denied the right to vote to people with criminal convictions in 1844, the same year it adopted a constitution that restricted voting to white men.

Today, about half of those denied access to this fundamental right are Black, even though Black people make up just 15 percent of New Jersey's overall population. Today, more Black  people in New Jersey are denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction than were barred from voting before racial discrimination in voting was prohibited by the 15th Amendment in 1870.

New Jersey denies the right to vote to more people than the total population of New Jersey's capital city, Trenton. Our state denies the right to vote to more people than live in Camden, Hoboken, Montclair, and each of more than 150 other municipalities in New Jersey.

As my colleague Scott Novakowski recently wrote, we must sever the antidemocratic link between the right to vote and the criminal justice system.

Please stand with us on February 26 as we raise our collective voices to erase this moral stain on our democracy.

We are 1844 no more. Let us vote!