The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice uses cutting-edge racial and social justice advocacy to empower people of color by building reparative systems that create wealth, transform justice and harness democratic power—from the ground up—in New Jersey.



“Black people have and will continue to be
the perfecters of this democracy.”

-Nikole Hannah-Jones



The Institute was thrilled to award our largest honor, the Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein Social Justice Award, to Nikole Hannah-Jones at our 15th Annual Gala on Nov. 10, 2020.

Click to watch our 2020 Gala

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of the NYT 1619 Project, Nikole urges us to see America as it really is, and to look with clear vision at the lasting legacy of slavery on every aspect of modern-day life.

At our Gala, Nikole joined Institute President/CEO Ryan Haygood for an in-depth discussion on the role of race in the extraordinary moment we are living through – and the necessary work ahead.

We also honored four other powerful Black women at our event, hosted other special guests including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and enjoyed some powerful musical entertainment.

Please watch




In December 2019 – as a result of the collective advocacy of the 1844 No More Campaign led by the Institute – Governor Murphy signed into law voting rights restoration for 83,000 people on probation and parole in New Jersey.

One of those 83,000 was Ron Pierce, the institute’s Democracy & Justice Fellow, whose political voice was silenced for 34 years.

Watch this screening of Voter, a 15-minute documentary about Ron’s journey from a family where voting was everything, to being incarcerated and losing the vote, to becoming a lead voting rights advocate in NJ.

The screening, held with our partners at NJPAC, is complemented by a discussion including remarks from Governor Murphy, Asw. Shavonda Sumter and other people who have had their votes restored.

Hear from NJ Youth about What They Need to Stay Out of the Criminal Justice System


Marking Juneteenth: The Ongoing Quest for Freedom in New Jersey

Watch our Juneteenth panel of Institute experts discussing how to #DoRacialJustice in this critical moment.


In the News

Attorney General Grewal Issues Directive to Further Transform State’s Juvenile Justice System

December 03, 2020


Attorney General Grewal Issues Directive to Further Transform State’s Juvenile Justice System 


TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued a statewide directive to law enforcement establishing policies, practices, and procedures to further juvenile justice reform by diverting juveniles away from law enforcement and toward social or familial support whenever possible consistent with public safety and welfare. 

Over the past two decades, New Jersey has emerged as a national leader in juvenile justice reform.  Since 2003, the year before New Jersey implemented a groundbreaking program known as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), the total number of juveniles in detention per year has dropped by 80 percent, from about 12,000 to less than 2,500, with youth of color accounting for almost 90 percent of the decline. Further, youth who are placed in detention alternative programs in lieu of detention receive supervision and support in their communities while awaiting the outcome of their case in court. These reforms have not only reduced the number of juveniles sent to secure detention, but resulted in deep and dramatic systemic changes. The decline in numbers has allowed multiple detention centers to merge their operations and share services. At the start of JDAI, there were 17 county-operated detention centers in New Jersey; today there are seven. The reduction in the number of juveniles in pretrial detention has also led to a reduction in the number of juveniles committed to state custody at sentencing. Directive 2020-12 is intended to build upon these successes and push forward the next phase of New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Reform efforts. 

Institute to Honor Nikole Hannah-Jones and Others at 15th Annual Gala on Nov. 10

November 09, 2020



Institute to Honor Nikole Hannah-Jones and Others at 15th Annual Gala on Nov. 10

Virtual Event Will be Free and Open to All


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice will hold its 15th Annual Gala on Tuesday, November 10 at 6 pm. 

The virtual event, which is free and open to all, will be livestreamed on the Institute’s website as well as on Facebook Live @NJISJ, and is themed Community Over Chaos, harkening back to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s admonition that “we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now … this may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”

“In these extraordinary times of national chaos, it is more important than ever that New Jersey double down on community and democracy,” added Haygood. “At this powerful event, we will celebrate our achievements we have made so far in the pursuit of social and racial justice, and commit to much work ahead.”

Institute Releases Beyond the Hashtag: Making Black Lives Matter by Closing JMSF and Building a Community-Based System of Care

October 29, 2020



Institute Releases Beyond the Hashtag: Making Black Lives Matter by Closing JMSF and Building a Community-Based System of Care

Report Proposes Radical Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today released Beyond the Hashtag: Making Black Lives Matter by Closing JMSF and Building a Community-Based System of Care, a report arguing for the closure of the Juvenile Medium Security Facility (JMSF) and New Jersey’s two other youth prisons and, instead of incarceration, the development of a well-resourced community-based system of care that provides intensive treatment and services for young people to keep them out of the criminal justice system. A pdf of the report can be found here.

“It is time for New Jersey to go beyond the hashtag and radically transform its youth justice system,” said Andrea McChristian, primary author of Beyond the Hashtag. “Our youth prison system, including JMSF, is a harmful relic from generations past. Especially in these times, it is clearer than ever that we should focus on building up our kids, not building prisons for them.”

Given the significant challenges we face, we have only two options: to embrace chaos or embrace community. We choose community. Join us as we work to bend our neighborhoods toward the beloved community.


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