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

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.”

NJ Public Health Credits Law Signed, Setting National Standard for COVID-19 in Prisons

October 20, 2020


Gov. Murphy signed into law S2519/A4235, which lets people nearing end of prison sentences go home months early

TRENTON – In a victory for racial justice and public health, Gov. Murphy on Oct. 19 signed into law S2519/A4235, championed by Senator Nellie Pou and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, to save lives from the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which is the first of its kind in the United States, implements public health emergency credits that will allow for the early release of incarcerated people nearing the end of their sentences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy sets a standard for other states as infections rate climb nationally, especially in prisons, which are known as Petri dishes for viral spread.

“This law unfortunately comes too late to save my son Rory, who died of COVID-19 just weeks before he was to come home – but, thankfully, it can save other mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and countless loved ones the heartbreak I have been through from knowing my child’s death could have been prevented. I thank the Legislature and Gov. Murphy for paying tribute to my beautiful son’s life by making sure fewer lives are lost to this virus,” said Bernice Ferguson, whose son Rory Price died of COVID-19 in March.

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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