Institute's Research Figures Prominently in Launch of Newark 2020

On June 26, Mayor Ras Baraka launched a bold initiative to connect 2,020 Newark residents to local work that pays a living wage by 2020. The Institute's research, conducted by Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative Demelza Baer and published in the report, Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond, formed the foundation of showing why this initiative is necessary and how it can be a success.

Star Ledger Editorial Board: Why pay more than $200k to lock one kid up in a half empty prison?

The Star Ledger Editorial Board wrote:

New Jersey's youth prisons are operating at half capacity, spending a fortune and utterly failing at their core mission: rehabilitating kids so they don't commit new crimes.  

That's why advocates with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice are kicking off a campaign this week to shutter our state's largest youth prison, Jamesburg, and the only prison for girls, known as Hayes. That would leave open one medium security prison for boys, in Bordentown...

New Video Highlights Institute's Work

Check out our new video that explains our work to advance social justice in New Jersey:

Institute Joins City of Newark in Newark 2020 Launch

On June 26, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (“Institute”) joined Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark for the launch of Mayor Baraka’s Newark 2020, also known as Hire Newark, an unprecedented jobs initiative for Newark residents.

Newark 2020 is an initiative to combat poverty in Newark by connecting 2,020 unemployed Newark residents to meaningful, full-time work that pays a living wage by 2020, thereby cutting in half the gap in the unemployment rate between Newark, which has a poverty rate double the national average, and New Jersey, one of the wealthiest states in America, by 2020.

Hire. Buy. Live. Newark partners include the City of Newark, the Institute, PNCT, Prudential, RWJBarnabas, Rutgers-Newark, PSEG, Panasonic, LISC, the Victoria Foundation, Audible, United Airlines, NJ Institute of Technology, Edison Properties, the Newark Alliance, Ports America, the Newark Anchor Collaborative, Maher Terminals, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Prudential Center, Horizon, Verizon, Urban League of Essex County, Newark Community Development Network, and more.

“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looked to Newark and other urban communities and explained that the country consisted of ‘two Americas,’ divided by race,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “Fifty years later, perhaps no other city embodies both the reality of the two Americas and the possibility of bridging these entrenched divides more than the City of Newark. Mayor Baraka’s Newark 2020 initiative seeks to finally bridge these Two Americas in the mighty city of Newark by connecting residents to living wage jobs.”

The Institute’s report, “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond," shows the necessity of Newark 2020. The report found that the high poverty rate in Newark is largely due to a lack of access to economic opportunity. While the majority of people working in Newark (56.4 percent) earn more than $40,000 per year, local residents do not have meaningful access to these jobs, as residents hold just 18 percent of all jobs in the city.  This makes Newark an outlier among similarly-situated cities. For example, local residents hold 46 percent of jobs in New Orleans, and 33 percent of jobs in Baltimore.

Moreover, local residents working in Newark tend to be concentrated in lower paying jobs. In comparison with non-Newark residents, local residents hold 26 percent of jobs paying less than $15,000 annually in Newark and 28 percent of jobs paying between $15,000 and $40,000 per year, but only 10 percent of jobs paying more than $40,000 annually. 

“This initiative is critical, because in one of the wealthiest states in the most prosperous nation in the world, it’s unacceptable that 30 percent of Newark residents live in poverty, and over half of households cannot afford to meet their basic needs for housing, healthcare, food, transportation, and childcare,” said Haygood.

There are also stark racial disparities. While almost three-quarters of Newark residents are people of color, 60 percent of the people employed in Newark are white, according to the Institute’s report.  Just 31 percent of the people employed in Newark are Black and only 20 percent are Latino.

Ryan P. Haygood writes for the Star Ledger: Close these 2 youth prisons, make system community-based

Ryan P. Haygood writes in the Star Ledger:

We cannot support New Jersey's system of youth incarceration. It is ineffective, racially discriminatory, and destructive to youth and their families. It is a moral stain on our state.

NJ Spotlight Profiles Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager Retha Onitiri

NJ Spotlight writes:

Next week, the institute launches its campaign to close the state’s boys’ and girls’ prisons. Being called the “150 years is enough campaign,” Onitiri said a broad coalition of about 50 organizations that include academics, lawyers, mental health professionals, and grassroots groups are pushing to change the way the state deals with young offenders 150 years after Jamesburg, the major boys’ prison, opened its doors.

“Our mission is to reduce the number in the youth prisons and increase the number receiving community care,” she said. The institute issued a report last December that looked at the state’s youth criminal justice system and recommended alternatives to incarceration when possible. According to the institute, just 13 of 222 youths incarcerated in the state’s three youth prisons are white, although research shows young blacks and whites have similar rates of offense.

And locking children away does not prevent them from having future troubles with the law. “After 150 years, we find we are not rehabilitating young people; there are still high recidivism rates,” she said. Community-based programs with wraparound services have proven to be more effective in reducing recidivism than incarceration. Those who need to be placed in a secure facility should instead be in smaller places closer to home that have more therapeutic environments with appropriate treatment.

Photo Gallery: Institute's 12th Annual Gala

The Institute’s 12th Annual Gala was a night to remember. We honored social justice engineers who not only embody the Institute’s mission but also share our commitment to create transformative and sustainable change in New Jersey’s urban communities. To the more than 300 guests that joined us, thank you!

Please click on the photos below to view them in their full resolution.


#150yearsisenough: Rally Logistics and Parking Information

The New Jersey Training School for Boys ("Jamesburg") opened its doors on June 28, 1867.
On June 28, we will stand together, outside its gates, to declare that 150 years is enough!
With this campaign, we are lifting our collective voices to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care by closing Hayes and Jamesburg-the state's girls' youth prison and the largest youth prison for boys, respectively. 
What: #150yearsisenough Rally 
When: Wednesday, June 28 from noon to 1:30 pm
Where: Outside the New Jersey Training School for Boys, located at Grace Hill Road in Monroe Township, NJ
Parking: Attendees can park on Grace Hill Road or at the Daniel P. Ryan Memorial Field (around the corner from the Jamesburg facility), located at 34 North State Home Road in Monroe Township, NJ 08831.
RSVP: If you have any questions or to RSVP, please contact the Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager Retha Onitiri at 

Star Ledger Highlights Clergy's Support for Closing Jamesburg & Hayes

The Star Ledger reports:

The Rev. Charles Bayer, of Salvation and Social Justice, said the solution to high incarceration rates is offering "community-based alternatives" including family therapy, probation or early intervention programs, rather than criminalizing marijuana. 

"Community-based alternatives are about helping and healing and restoration," said Boyer, also a Faith in New Jersey member. "Not demonizing them, criminalizing them, and saying they're throw-away kids."

Youth Justice New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice will protest outside of the New Jersey Training School for Boys at Grace Hill Road in Monroe Township on June 28, the 150th anniversary of the jail's opening. 

101.5: New Jersey’s juvenile prisons have failed, and 2 should close, group says

101.5 reports:

Exactly 150 years after the New Jersey Training School for Boys opened its doors, a rally outside the prison will call for its closure, suggesting youth incarceration in New Jersey has not succeeded at rehabilitating the young minds that go through the system.

The June 28 rally, led by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will push for the shutdown of both the Jamesburg facility and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility in Bordentown. Caravans of supporters — all part of the Youth Justice New Jersey coalition — are expected to attend.

“The current system has not done what it was created to do, and that is to rehabilitate our young people,” Retha Onitiri, the institute’s juvenile justice campaign director, told New Jersey 101.5. “We have a revolving door of recidivism.”

Onitiri said studies have shown youth incarceration, as it exists today in the Garden State, increases one’s odds of living in poverty or being in prison as an adult.