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.






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 on October 26, 2020, was 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


In the News

New Institute Brief Makes Case for Expanding Jury Service to Include People with Criminal Convictions

August 25, 2022

NEWARK –The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today released Jury of Our Peers, a policy brief arguing that New Jersey should open up jury service to people with criminal convictions. Currently, the state bans people who have been convicted of indictable offenses from jury service for life. 

Because New Jersey leads the nation in having the highest racial inequality in Black/white incarceration rates for both adults and youth, the ban on jury service for those with indictable (felony) criminal offenses whitewashes our juries and impedes the right to a jury of one’s peers, while also disproportionately precluding Black community members from the civic participation that comes with serving on juries. 

“Our ban on jury service for people with criminal convictions does double damage by both denying defendants a jury of their peers and precluding a disproportionate number of Black people from participating in civic society by serving on juries,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This practice bars about a quarter of New Jersey’s Black population from serving on a jury and guarantees that our juries never truly reflect the racial diversity of our state."

Institute Celebrates Civil Rights Hero Fred Gray as He Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

July 07, 2022

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today celebrated the momentous Presidential Medal of Freedom award granted to Mr. Fred Gray. 

At Mr. Gray's invitation, Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood attended the ceremony. 

“If there’s anyone who deserves this prestigious honor, it’s Mr. Gray, who changed the course of civil rights history in America,” said Haygood. “We all rightly know the names of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and John Lewis. But often people behind the scenes alter the course of history, too. Today, America recognized one of those people.” 

In 1954, Fred Gray received his law degree and began his career in Alabama with one mission in mind: to destroy everything segregated.  

He became the legal engine of the civil rights movement, going on to represent Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. He was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s first civil rights attorney, referred to by him as “the brilliant young Negro who later [be]came chief counsel for the protest movement."   

Black-led Organizations Urge Gov. Murphy to Conditionally Veto Legislation Rolling Back Bail Reform Legislation

June 30, 2022

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Fair Share Housing Center, NAACP New Jersey State Conference and Salvation and Social Justice today wrote to Gov. Murphy urging him to conditionally veto A2426, a bill that will make it easier to detain people accused of certain firearm offenses.  

A2426 weakens the Criminal Justice Reform Act – a historic bipartisan criminal justice reform law that eliminated bail for most offenses – and can provide a slippery slope to the increased detainment of people in New Jersey and exacerbate our already stark racial disparities.  

New Jersey law requires that a racial and ethnic impact statement is provided for criminal justice bills affecting pretrial detention before the legislature votes on them. As this didn’t happen, it is now up to the Governor to conditionally veto the bill since proper legal process was not followed. As it stands now, it is unknown to what degree this legislation will disproportionately impact communities of color. 

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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