On May 1, 2017, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference presented, "A Conversation on Social Justice with New Jersey's Gubernatorial Candidates," moderated by Elise Boddie, institute board member and Rutgers University professor of law, and Michael Hill, award-winning NJTV News correspondent. The forum featured gubernatorial candidates from the Democratic, Republican and Green parties: Bill Brennan (D), Jim Johnson (D), Raymond Lesniak (D), Seth Kaper-Dale (D), Phil Murphy (D), Steven Rogers (R), Hirsh Singh (R), John Wisniewski (D) and Mark Zinna (D).
The candidates answered a series of questions on social justice issues:
Juvenile Justice: A recent report by the Institute for Social Justice documents disturbing injustice in our state system: Black children are 24.3 times more likely than white children to be put in a juvenile facility, even though there is no real difference between the kinds of offenses that black and white children commit.
As a result, New Jersey ranks in the top 3 of the most racially discriminatory systems in the country.
Even worse—research shows that putting young people in prison doesn’t work. It leads to trauma, homelessness, poverty, and recidivism. Youth prisons are not only racially unjust but also bad public policy.
Do you agree? If so, what is your vision for reform? How do we not only eliminate racial disparities but also keep children out of the system in the first place?
Mobility, Opportunity, and Access: A recent report by the Urban Institute showed that Newark’s metropolitan area ranks among the most racially and economically segregated areas of the country.
The costs of this segregation are high: Blacks and Latinos and low-income people are less likely to have access to quality schools, steady jobs, decent housing, and public services. Indeed, although New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the country, in Newark, one-third of residents live in poverty.
As Governor, what would you do to reduce racial and economic inequality across the state’s metropolitan regions to ensure that all of New Jersey’s communities have fair and equal opportunities to live the American dream?
Voting Rights for People with Criminal Convictions: New Jersey denies the right to vote to over 70,000 people who have been released from prison but are still on parole or probation for a criminal conviction. Nearly half of those who cannot vote are Black people. Through this practice, New Jersey disfranchises more people in the community than any other state in the Northeast. As Governor would you support the automatic restoration of the right to vote once a person has been released from prison and why or why not?
Immigration: Since Donald Trump took office, many immigrants in New Jersey live in fear of detention and deportation. It’s not uncommon now to hear about immigrant families here in New Jersey who are afraid to send their children to school, to report abuse, and who are going hungry rather than using safety net services for food. As governor, how will you ensure that New Jersey is a place where immigrants can feel and be safe to live, work, and raise families in peace?
You can watch the event online by clicking here.