Jersey Journal: Should Amazon choose Newark for its second headquarters?

The Jersey Journal reports:

The stakes are high if the company chooses Newark.

Newarkers hold 18 percent of all jobs in the city, according to a report from New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. 


Star Ledger: Newark believes it has a real shot to score Amazon HQ

The Star Ledger reports:

Newarkers hold 18 percent of all jobs in the city, according to a report from New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. In Baltimore, residents hold 33 percent of jobs; in Detroit the number is 25 percent, the 2017 report said. 

Star Ledger: Newark social justice group hails decision to close juvenile facility

The Star Ledger reports:

"The announcement was never just about closing these prisons," said Ryan Haygood, president and chief executive officer of NJISJ. "This was about transforming a broken system."

In its report, "Bring Our Children Home: Ain't I a Child?" the institute concluded that New Jersey's system of incarceration should be replaced with smaller cottage-like facilities focused on treatment, mental health services, counseling and education. 

In fact, Haygood said that in addition to the facilities to be built, New Jersey already has 12 residential programs across the state that are below capacity and can be used now to house some of its juvenile population.

Star Ledger Editorial Board: Kudos to Christie for closing pricey, mostly-empty youth prisons. Now what?

The Star Ledger Editorial Board writes:

Chris Christie's departing Attorney General, Chris Porrino, had it right:
There aren't many chances to save money by doing the right thing. But their plan to close two of New Jersey's most wasteful and ineffective youth prisons is one of them...
While New Jersey is a leader in reducing its youth prison population, Black kids are still far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned, rather than diverted to more humane and effective community programs.
What we need to do now is re-imagine what our youth justice system should look like. 


Black History Month 2018


Please join us at these upcoming events for Black History Month 2018:

FEBRUARY 6 at the Jersey City Public Library-Greenville: Join us for a discussion with New Jersey resident Jason Bost, author of "White Nigger: The Struggles and Triumphs Growing Up Bi-Racial in America." Bost chronicles his journey from high school dropout to law school graduate, eventually becoming a college professor and a lawyer. "White Nigger: The Struggles and Triumphs Growing Up Bi-Racial in America" is the critically acclaimed autobiography that does not shy away from the difficult issues of race, culture and poverty in America. Please click here for more information.

FEBRUARY 10 at the Newark Public Library: Demelza Baer, Institute Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative, will speak at the Black Lives Matter-Newark 2018 panel discussion, alongside Lori Scott-Pickens, Director of Community Outreach at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Newark; Robert L. Johnson, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine; and Fatimah Loren Muhammad, Director Trauma Advocacy Initiative at Equal Justice USA. Please click here for more information. 

FEBRUARY 13 at the Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County: Join us for a night of reflection on the legacy and future of the Bordentown School, New Jersey’s “Tuskegee of the North.” Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian will preview her forthcoming report on transforming New Jersey’s girls’ youth prison—which now sits on the Bordentown School’s former grounds—back into a school that can once again serve as a source of uplift for New Jersey’s Black youth. The program will be followed by a tour of the museum. Please click here for more information. 

FEBRUARY 20 at the State House: Join us at the State House Annex in Goldfinch Square in Trenton from 12:00 to 1:30 PM for the Youth Justice New Jersey Art Exhibition and Video launch, featuring artwork created by justice-involved youth. This event is hosted by Senator Ron Rice and was produced in collaboration with coLAB Arts. Please click here for more information. New Jersey Training School for Boys set to close reports:

“We look forward to working with the incoming administration and the Juvenile Justice Commission to chart the way forward for closing Jamesburg and Hayes, addressing the root causes of these staggering racial disparities, investing in the creation of a community-based system of care, and developing more rehabilitative out-of-home settings for our young people,” Haygood said. “Our primary goal is to ensure that our state’s youth — regardless of the color of their skin — receive the rehabilitation they need to mature and grow into responsible adults. Doing so would position New Jersey to be a national leader in transformative youth justice.”


Truth-Out: After More Than a Century of "Horrific Conditions," Some Youth Prisons Are Shutting Down

Truth-Out reports:

Last June, several hundred protesters observed the 150-year anniversary of a New Jersey prison for boys known as Jamesburg by gathering at its gates and calling for the facility to finally be shut down. Six months later, outgoing Gov. Chris Christie announced that Jamesburg and another prison for girls would be closing this year.

Retha Onitiri, a juvenile justice campaign manager with the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, said it was a "miracle" that 300 to 400 people showed up to the protest at Jamesburg last summer. The youth prison is located in a remote area of the state with no public transportation.

"So, people were really able to see what it was like for families who are low-income," Onitiri said. "They were not able to get out there [and see their children] for years."



101.5: How NJ is changing its juvenile justice system

New Jersey101.5 reports:

Ryan Haygood, the CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said this latest announcement is a significant step in the right direction.

“New Jersey really is poised to serve as a national leader for transforming youth justice, and for creating an affirmative vision for what youth justice should look like,” he said. “What’s really at issue is creating a system that will better serve our young people who are most vulnerable, and who most desperately need support systems that rehabilitate young people.”

He said despite making important progress in youth justice, there is still a great deal of racial disparity that must be overcome.

“A young black person is 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a young white person, even though research shows black and white kids commit most crimes at about the same rate,” he said.

He said this latest announcement is part of an effort “to create rehabilitation centers that are smaller, that are cottage-like, that are close to home and familial supports, that are holistic and child-centered, and they’re really imbued with wrap-around services in settings that offer real rehabilitation for our youth,” he said. “For too long the way New Jersey has done youth incarcerations is in a far away setting that is often too remote and too removed from the real supports that young people need. The reality is that familial support is essential to helping young people realize rehabilitation.”

Home News: State to close NJ Training School for Boys in Monroe

The Home News reports:

The state has approved funding to close the New Jersey Training School for Boys here, which is known as Jamesburg, and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility in Bordentown, known as Hayes.

Gov. Chris Christie announced the reform of New Jersey's juvenile justice system Monday with a $162 million bond to finance the closure of the two Civil War-era youth prisons. Two smaller state of the art juvenile rehabilitation centers will be built — one in Ewing, Mercer County, the other in Winslow Township, Camden County. The facilities will house between 40 and 72 youth offenders...

“Gov. Christie’s plan to close two of New Jersey’s failed youth prisons is one of the most significant youth justice reforms in 150 years,” said Ryan P. Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which launched a campaign in June to close Jamesburg and Hayes.

On June 28, 2017, Jamesburg’s 150th anniversary, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and over 50 partner organizations launched “150 Years is Enough,” a campaign to close Jamesburg and Hayes and invest in the creation of a community-based system of care.

“We thank Gov. Christie, Attorney General Porrino and the entire administration for their leadership in declaring that 150 years of failed youth incarceration is enough and that it is time to fundamentally transform our broken youth justice system," Haygood said.

Ain't I A Child: A Transformative Vision for Youth Justice in New Jersey


On June 28, 1867, the New Jersey Training School for Boys (“Jamesburg”), New Jersey’s largest youth prison for boys, opened its doors.

Since then, thousands of children have passed through its gates.

More than 150 years later, we are lifting our collective voices to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care by closing Jamesburg and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility (“Hayes”), the state’s girl’s youth prison.

Our primary goal is to ensure that our state’s youth—regardless of the color of their skin—receive the rehabilitation they need to mature and grow into responsible adults.  

This is not happening under the current system.

Instead, as outlined in the Institute’s report Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child?, we must no longer support New Jersey's system of youth incarceration. It is a moral stain on our state that must finally be brought to an end.

The Problem with New Jersey’s Youth Incarceration System

New Jersey currently has the worst racial disparities among its incarcerated Black and white youth in the nation. In our state, a Black child is, incredibly, more than 30 times more likely to be detained or committed to a youth facility than a white child. As a result, as of June 1, 2017, 70 percent of incarcerated kids are Black, and only 8 percent (just 18 kids) are white. These staggering racial disparities persist even though Black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates. To be clear, these racial disparities in our state’s youth prisons reflect racially discriminatory decisions about which kids deserve incarceration, and which deserve rehabilitation and grace. 

Further, these disparities persist even though New Jersey’s involvement in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative led to a significant decrease in the state’s incarcerated youth population. In fact, between 1997 and 2010, the total population of confined youth in our state’s juvenile residential facilities was cut by over half. 

As a result of these low numbers, our state’s youth prisons are largely empty. For example, Jamesburg, which has a capacity of 330, housed only 155 boys as of June 1, 2017. And Hayes, which has a maximum capacity of 48 girls, incarcerated 12 girls at that time. 

Despite these low numbers, New Jersey continues to fund its youth prisons as if they are operating at full capacity. New Jersey spends around 60 million dollars annually to operate its three youth prisons—about half of the Juvenile Justice Commission’s entire state budget. Currently, the state spends approximately $250,000 each year to house each young person in the state’s three youth prisons.

Imagine the good we could do in a child’s life with an annual $250,000 investment.

Importantly, New Jersey’s current youth incarceration system also does not reduce recidivism or increase public safety. Of the 450 young people released from commitment in state youth facilities in 2013, 79 percent had a new court filing or arrest, 67 percent had a new adjudication or conviction, and almost one-third  (30 percent) were recommitted within three years of release. Studies show that children who are incarcerated are also more likely to be incarcerated as adults.

Moreover, incarcerating our children in faraway youth prisons damages their natural development by removing them from positive support networks, their communities, and their families. Indeed, the National Research Council of the National Academies cautions that “the practice of committing youth to large institutions that fail to provide for their developmental needs is both costly in financial terms and ineffective in furthering the goal of crime prevention.”

Put simply, New Jersey’s failed youth incarceration system perpetuates harmful racial disparities, is financially wasteful, does not promote public safety, and interrupts positive youth development. Such a system punishes, rather than rehabilitates, our youth, depriving them of the necessary treatment, services, and familial support they need to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

But there is a better way. To successfully rehabilitate our state’s most marginalized youth, New Jersey must transform its youth justice system into a community-based system of care.

Through such a model, the default would be to keep our young people in their homes, in community-based programs with treatment and wrap-around services, rather than to incarcerate them in faraway youth prisons. And, in the case where an out-of-home placement may be necessary for public safety reasons, these facilities should be small, child-centered, close to home, and treatment-intensive.

As a state, our overarching goal must be to use out-of-home placement as a last resort for all of our state’s children. Accordingly, we must aim to push down our youth from the most secure out-of-home placements to treatment-intensive community-based programs with wrap-around services. Here at the Institute, we believe we can achieve this vision through the following “push down” model.  

The “Push Down” Model

First, New Jersey must immediately close Jamesburg and Hayes. These two failing youth prisons are largely empty, financially wasteful, far away from young people’s families, do not increase public safety, and perpetuate harmful racial disparities. 

And, as part of the long-term transformation of the system, New Jersey must take steps to close the Juvenile Medium Secure Facility—the state’s most secure boys’ youth prison. 

Second, and as has been proposed by the Christie administration, substantial cost savings from these closures should be reinvested into expanding community-based programming—including prevention, intervention, diversion, and incarceration alternatives programming. While the state currently spends approximately 60 million dollars to operate its three youth prisons, it only allocates around 8 million dollars to provide counties with funding for community-based youth programs through the state-community partnership grant program. As a result, the state should use closure funds to increase funding for community-based programs that have proven successful in either New Jersey or other jurisdictions. Importantly, at the point of adjudication, the default should be to place a young person in an effective community-based program, rather than an out-of-home placement.   

Third, for those young people who do not, for public safety reasons, need to be placed in a secure setting, but are not yet ready to return to the community, New Jersey should consider housing these young people in one of the state’s non-secure placements. Currently, the Juvenile Justice Commission operates 11 non-secure residential community homes throughout the state. Many of these facilities already incorporate some best practices in youth out-of-home placement. And, like the youth prisons, these facilities are largely under capacity. While all of these residential community homes must be assessed and evaluated to ensure they are fully in accord with national best practices, they provide an important alternative to secure placement for our young people that the state must consider.

Last, Governor Christie’s plan is to build two youth rehabilitation centers for those youth who may require a more secure setting for public safety reasons. This proposal provides us with an opportunity to implement national best practices and to truly offer our system-involved young people a full continuum of care.

Importantly, however, these centers cannot—and must not—be prisons. Instead, these publicly-run facilities should be small, cottage-like, holistic, child-centered, treatment-focused, and imbued with wrap-around services in settings that offer real rehabilitation for our youth. Rather than faraway youth prisons, these centers should be easily accessible to families to ensure sustained family engagement, filled with public workers trained in youth rehabilitation, and should provide culturally sensitive, developmentally-appropriate, and trauma-informed care.

The young people housed in these rehabilitation centers should also have individualized treatment programs—based on a comprehensive assessment—to account for their unique social, emotional, developmental, therapeutic, health, skills development, and educational needs.


Nelson Mandela once said “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” The time is now for New Jersey to take the next step to transform its youth justice system so that all of our state’s children can be treated as children.

150 years is enough.