Institute and 100 Groups Urge Gov. Murphy and Legislators to Support Youth Justice Reform Bill
Letter to Elected Officials and New Podcast Spell Out Necessity of Passing A4663/S2924
NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 100 other organizations today sent a letter to Gov. Murphy, Sen. President Steve Sweeney and Ass. Speaker Craig Coughlin urging them to support the Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program bill (the “Restorative Justice bill”) (A4663/S2924). A full copy of the letter can be found here.
As part of an effort to radically transform New Jersey’s broken youth justice system, the Restorative Justice bill will establish a two-year pilot program in four communities (Camden, Newark, Trenton and Paterson) directly impacted by high rates of youth incarceration. The bill requires moving $8.4 million from New Jersey’s overfunded incarceration system to restorative justice pilot programs – an approach that focuses on building healthy relationships and resolving conflicts in communities to decrease youth involvement in the youth justice system. The bill envisions a cost-effective plan to reduce racial disparities and recidivism rates and implement less punitive and more restorative interventions. The new programs would support youth who are released from incarceration and help them – and other youth – succeed and stay out of the system.
“Many of the young people returning to their communities have suffered from adverse childhood experiences prior to their confinement and are in need of healing and special care. Implementing services outlined in this program will better connect youth to trauma-informed services that are culturally and environmentally competent and will keep them in their communities and out of the youth justice system,” said the Institute and other groups in the letter.
The letter explained that due to acute racial disparities in the criminal justice system, incarcerated people of color have been contracting and dying of COVID in New Jersey’s prisons at horrifying rates. Through previous legislation, many incarcerated youth have been released early due to COVID risks; now they, and other youth in their communities, need immediate support to succeed.
Along with the letter, the groups sent elected officials a newly released podcast that features the voices of young people impacted by the youth justice system, passionately explaining the urgent need for this legislation.
The Restorative Justice bill was voted unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It must now go through the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee, after which it will move on to full floor votes and the Governor’s desk.