New Jersey Has the Highest Black/white Youth Committment/Detention Disparity Rate in the Country

The Institute issued the following statement in response to data released from The Sentencing Project that shows New Jersey has the worst Black/white youth commitment/detention racial disparity rate in the country:


Black youth in New Jersey are over 30 times more likely to be detained or committed than white youth, according to a new fact sheet released by The Sentencing Project. This gives New Jersey the highest Black/white youth incarceration disparity rate in the nation, a rate twice that of the next state, Wisconsin. According to an earlier report by The Sentencing Project, New Jersey also has the worst Black/white disparity rate in adult incarceration in state prisons in the country: a Black adult in New Jersey is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated in a state prison than a white adult.    

“New Jersey has the worst Black/white youth incarceration disparity rate in the country. Even though Black and white kids commit most offenses at similar rates, a Black child is, incredibly, 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child. As a result, just 13 white children are incarcerated in New Jersey as of January of this year,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (the “Institute”). “We know that all kids can be saved. These striking racial disparities reflect racially discriminatory policy decisions that determine which kids get prison and which kids do not in New Jersey. We cannot support this shameful system of youth incarceration. It is, at its core, racialized, ineffective, and destructive to youth and their families. It is a moral stain on our state.”

To combat this reality, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is leading the 150 Years is Enough campaign to fundamentally transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care by closing The New Jersey Training School for Boys (“Jamesburg”) and the Female Secure Care and Intake Facility (“Hayes”), the state’s largest youth prison for boys and the state’s girls’ youth prison, respectively.

Out of the 222 youth who are incarcerated in the state's three youth prisons as of January 1, 2017, just 13 are white, according to a document received via an OPRA request by the Institute. The Institute found in its report, Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child, released in December 2016, that Black youth comprise nearly 75% of those committed to state juvenile facilities (both secure and non-secure facilities).

“Kids have no place in prison,” said Andrea McChristian, primary author of the Institute’s report.  “We must fight to give our Black kids justice by focusing our resources into the community—through prevention, intervention, diversion, and alternatives to incarceration programs—rather than failing youth prisons.  This new data, and the reality that New Jersey also has the worst racial disparities in the adult prison system in the nation, show that our current system is not working.”  

“These numbers make clear that our current system is failing Black children and their families,” said Retha Onitiri, manager of the 150 Years is Enough Campaign. “We are asking all New Jersey residents who care about our kids to help us fight this racial injustice by joining our campaign.”

More than fifty organizations, including the NAACP State Conference, the ACLU of New Jersey, the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, the Drug Policy Alliance, Faith in New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, and several local chapters of My Brother's Keeper have also joined the call for closure and reinvestment. These organizations have signed onto a letter supporting this campaign. (The full list of signatories can be found here.)

“New Jersey has a very high disparity between its Black and white youth, and that disparity is growing – it essentially doubled since 2001.  This is one reason we must fight to transform New Jersey’s broken youth justice system,” said Josh Rovner, the author of the fact sheet and Juvenile Justice Advocacy Associate at The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C.