In the News

Family of Najee Seabrooks Joins Renewed Call for Federal Intervention into Paterson Police Misconduct



NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today was joined by the family (estate) of Najee Seabrooks and over 55 organizations in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) strongly urging the DOJ to investigate Paterson Police Department’s (PPD) longstanding pattern of illegal, abusive and racially disparate policing.

The letter follows a previous request for federal intervention sent to DOJ on March 13. Today’s follow-up letter emphasizes that a federal investigation remains critical despite New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin’s takeover of the PPD on March 27.

Institute Responds to Attorney General Action Regarding Paterson Police and Continues to Urge DOJ Investigation

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today responded to Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s announcement of an AG takeover of Paterson police and other initiatives. The following can be attributed to Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice:

“It is encouraging that the Attorney General recognizes the deeply rooted problems plaguing the Paterson Police, and that he has taken swift action to address them. He is right to acknowledge the ‘crisis of confidence in law enforcement’ in Paterson. We, and he, must also remember that the ‘crisis in confidence’ is a direct result of a crisis in policing – and a crisis of police violence – against Black and other people of color.

Institute Releases Brief on Racial Wealth Gap and Other Financial Disparities

NEWARK – Today, 55 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Newark to promote the Poor People’s Campaign, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice released The Two New Jerseys By the Numbers, a brief containing several points of data that demonstrate the vast financial disparities between New Jersey’s Black, Latina/o and white residents.  

“Whether we are talking about wealth, homeownership, income or poverty, the disparities between Black and Latina/o New Jerseyans and their white neighbors remain alarmingly vast, some of the worst in the country,” said Laura Sullivan, Director of the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “These disparities are not an accident or a result of individual behavior. They are a result of persistent and daunting policy obstacles that have compounded over generations to hold back a large percentage of New Jersey’s residents of color. These obstacles must be met with equally forceful policy solutions, including those the Institute advocates for every day.”  

Institute Responds to Body Camera Video of Paterson Police Killing of Najee Seabrooks

NEWARK – In response to body camera footage released this afternoon of the killing of Najee Seabrooks by Paterson police, the following can be attributed to Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice:

"What we saw today is heartbreaking video of a distressed Black man in the middle of a mental health crisis. This was a man who was desperately seeking help – help that could not be provided while a gun was pointed at his face.

"Soothing words fall fatefully short when someone is staring down the barrel of a deadly weapon.

Advocates to Hold Press Conference at 4 p.m. Today Calling for Justice for Najee Seabrooks

PATERSON Today (Thursday), March 16 at 4 p.m., a coalition of social justice advocates (see below) will call for justice for the March 3 killing of Najee Seabrooks by officers of the Paterson Police Department.

Over 40 organizations have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene and investigate, citing the widespread and pervasive pattern of unconstitutional, abusive and discriminatory police practices at PPD.

At today’s press conference, representatives from local and state organizations will address the need for accountability on the local, state and federal levels – as well as the need for robust non-law enforcement, non-violent response resources for incidents involving mental health and other crises.

Racial Justice Advocates Call for U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Paterson Police Department

NEWARK – A coalition of civil rights advocates today sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice calling for a federal investigation into the Paterson Police Department’s pattern of illegal, abusive and racially disparate policing. 

The letter follows the recent police killing of Najee Seabrooks while he was in his own home experiencing a mental health crisis. Mr. Seabrooks, trained in violence intervention, worked for the Paterson Healing Collective, an organization with that specialty. His co-workers were on the scene and attempted to provide non-violent assistance to him but were prevented from doing so by police.

The letter argues that PPD’s history of egregious misconduct demands federal intervention.

“Residents of Paterson have lived for years under a police department with a history of excessive force and other abuse, all felt disproportionately by Black and Brown residents in one of the most diverse cities in the country,” said the letter.

Over 50 Groups Rally to Urge Passage of New Jersey Voting Rights Act

NEWARK – With a rally at the statehouse and a letter delivered to New Jersey elected officials today, a coalition (the “NJVRA NOW Coalition”) of voting rights advocates called for New Jersey to protect the right to vote by passing a strong version of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New Jersey (A4554/S2997).

With voter suppression rampant across the country and federal voting rights eroded, it is more important than ever for New Jersey to enshrine into law voter protections to strengthen our democracy.

Voters in New Jersey, especially Black and other voters of color, face many barriers when it comes to casting their ballots, including late openings and long lines on Election Day, struggles with physical access to polling locations for those with disabilities and lack of language accessibility for those with limited English proficiency.

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.