In the News

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Urges Sen. Booker to Support SAFE Banking Act

Black Communities Must Have Access to Cannabis Business, Says Letter

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today sent a letter to Sen. Cory Booker urging him to support the SAFE Banking Act in Congress.

The Institute also urges all of New Jersey's congressional delegation as well as state legislators to put their support behind the SAFE Banking Act.

The Institute’s letter to Sen. Booker included the text below:

“We’re writing today about an urgent matter that will affect not only New Jerseyans, but Americans across the country: the need for Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act.

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Responds to Assembly Vote to Allow Police at Schools and Residential Senior Centers for Elections

NEWARK – New Jersey Institute for Social Justice representatives today issued the following statements in response to the New Jersey Assembly’s vote to pass A2131, which allows police at polling locations in schools and senior residential centers during the election.   

This legislation undermines the current law, which keeps police from coming within 100 feet of a polling location while allowing them to respond in cases of emergency. 

“It’s disappointing to see New Jersey’s legislature looking to reactive instead of effective policies – and contracting our democracy at a time when we need to expand it more than ever,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “It’s unfortunate to see legislators attempting to roll back parts of a good law in favor of one that doesn’t protect our children and can harm our democracy.” 

Over 40 Groups Urge New Jersey to Expand Jury Service to People with Criminal Convictions

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 40 other social justice advocates – the “Jury of Us Coalition” – sent a letter today to Governor Murphy, Senate President Nicholas Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin urging them to support passage into law of A977/S3043 to end New Jersey’s misguided practice of prohibiting people with criminal convictions for life from serving on juries. 

The Jury of Us Coalition argued that the lifetime ban undermines both the foundational right to a jury of one’s peers and a fair trial, as well as the goal of reintegrating formerly incarcerated people into our communities. 

New Jersey bans between 438,000 and 533,000 people of the overall population from serving on juries due to criminal convictions, importing the racism of the criminal justice system into its jury selection process. As a result, between 219,000 to 269,000 Black people in New Jersey are banned from jury service because of a conviction—a staggering 23% to 29% of the state’s overall Black population.  

NJ Assembly Committees to Hold Hearings on Racial Justice Related Bills

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and partners will testify today in front of two Assembly committees on bills with huge racial justice implications for the Garden State. 

The New Jersey Assembly Regulated Professions Committee will hear testimony at 2 p.m. on A1519, a bill aimed at ensuring that New Jersey has strong protections against discrimination in home appraisals based on race. 

Under A1519, appraisers who commit discrimination will be fined or have their licenses suspended. California adopted similar legislation to combat discrimination in home appraisals last year. 

“Discrimination in housing appraisals strips wealth from Black communities who have historically been denied the same lending opportunities, public subsidies and other supports that white communities have used to build wealth through homeownership,” said Laura Sullivan, Director of the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, who will testify in support of the bill. “With homeownership being the primary driver of wealth, this kind of discrimination in housing contributes to New Jersey’s huge racial wealth gap: a $300,000 disparity in the median wealth between Black and white households.” 

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Honors Darnella Frazier, Jelani Cobb and Others at Tonight’s 17th Annual Gala

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is hosting its 17th annual Gala at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark tonight, October 17 at 6 p.m. 

New Jersey’s social justice event of the year features cocktails at NICO Kitchen + Bar followed by dinner and an awards presentation in the Prudential Hall Lobby at NJPAC. The event is being livestreamed on Facebook

"We are thrilled to celebrate tonight with our friends, supporters, sponsors and an incredible lineup of Honorees who are social justice warriors – including Darnella Frazier, whose moments of courage inspired a worldwide movement for racial justice," said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "Our Advocacy is Power theme perfectly reflects the spirit of our spectacular team – working day in and day out to empower Black and other communities of color throughout New Jersey. Tonight, we celebrate the fruits of that work, and double down on our commitment to do social and racial justice in the Garden State.”  

As U.S. Supreme Court Hears Voting Rights Case Today, Institute Calls for New Jersey Voting Rights Act

NEWARK – As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today in Merrill v Milligan, a case that could undermine Sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibiting racially discriminatory voting practices, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice called for New Jersey to pass a Voting Rights Act of its own: a strong version of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New Jersey (A4554/S2997). Sec. 2 was already weakened in the Brnovich v DNC case last term and today’s case can further erode it.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v Holder, a case I helped litigate, we knew we’d have a big fight ahead of us to restore voting rights in this country,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Now with Sec. 2 on the chopping block again, the fight becomes even more pressing. New Jersey can’t stand by and rely on weakened federal standards. As one of the most diverse states in the country, New Jersey must be a leader and pass our own Voting Rights Act to protect and expand access to the ballot for all our residents.” 

Democracy Advocates Testify Against Rolling Back Voter Protections at Polls

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and other democracy advocates testified today in front of the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee, urging members to reject A2131 and S2912, bills that allow police at schools and senior residential centers on Election Day. 

If passed, A2131 and S2912 would roll back parts of a pro-democracy law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 18 that prohibited law enforcement from being within 100 feet of polling places but allowing them to respond in emergency situations. 

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

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

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

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.