Atlanta Black Star: Civil Rights Groups In New Jersey Say Youth Prisons Should Be Abolished

The Atlanta Black Star reports:

“One-hundred and fifty years of youth incarceration is enough,” said Ryan P. Haygood, NJISJ president and CEO, in an announcement about the campaign. “We are lifting our collective voices to transform New Jersey’s youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care.”

NJISJ works on issues such as criminal justice reform, economic mobility and community outreach and engagement. The organization’s leaders say racial disparities are widespread in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system. Retha Onitiri, who serves as juvenile justice campaign manager for the group, stated that in the Garden State, “Black youths are 24.3 times more likely to be committed to a secure facility than their white counterparts. New Jersey has the third-highest disparity rate in the nation. Of the 222 young people incarcerated, two-thirds are Black and just 13 are white.”

The Rev. Charles Boyer, long time social justice advocate and pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Woodbury, N.J., said that he’s disturbed by how differently society treats Black and white children. Boyer leads the coalition known as Salvation and Social Justice made up of New Jersey clergy and civil rights groups that fight structural and institutional racism. He demonstrated outside of Jamesburg on the facility’s 150th birthday in part, he said, because the A.M.E. denomination has a long history of freedom fighters and abolitionists. He considers closing youth prisons to be part of that fight.

“When we look at the prison industrial complex, that’s the definition —profiteering off of young Black bodies,” Boyer said. “Reforming these youth prisons isn’t radical enough. We need to abolish what’s there.”

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