Institute Responds to Passage of Legislation with Racial Justice Implications in NJ Legislature Today
NEWARK – The New Jersey Senate and Assembly today both passed important legislation with implications for racial justice.
The Senate passed S3683, a bill that will require colleges and universities to provide targeted data on student loan outcomes broken down by race, ethnicity, age, family income at time of admission, gender and first-generation status that would help identify where reforms are needed to protect students and borrowers of color.
“Too many students of color are burdened with insurmountable debt in New Jersey,” said Laura Sullivan, Director of the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “By requiring critical data, this bill is an important piece of the puzzle in ensuring that students of color have access to higher education without a decades-long debt burden.”
The Senate and Assembly passed A5942/S3999, a bill to authorize the Secretary of State to join the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC), a multi-state nonprofit organization that allows states to improve their voter rolls and increase voter registration access for voters. Thirty states and the District of Columbia already participate in ERIC.
“Joining ERIC will improve New Jersey’s voter registration system, which will allow us to continue expanding voter access,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “During a time where we are seeing alarming voting restrictions across the country, New Jersey is moving in the right direction by expanding access to the ballot.”
The Senate and Assembly also passed S3939/A5864, a misguided piece of legislation that provides police the ability to review body camera footage before filing their incident reports.
“At a time when we should be passing legislation to address harmful policing practices, New Jersey is passing laws to create more of them,” said Yannick Wood, Director of Criminal Justice Reform at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This bill, even with eleventh hour amendments, undermines accuracy, transparency and accountability and will allow police to adjust and coordinate their stories.”
The Assembly passed S2924, the Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Community Pilot Program bill, which will establish a two-year pilot program in Newark, Trenton, Paterson and Camden providing community-based support programs for youth, including restorative justice hubs. The bill passed in the Senate earlier this week.
“We commend the Senate for passing this critical piece of legislation which will help keep New Jersey’s youth out of the broken and systemically racist youth prison system,” said Retha Onitiri, Director of Community Engagement at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “It’s time that New Jersey declared there are no throwaway kids in our state, and this is an important step. We look forward to this bill being signed into law by Gov. Murphy.”
The Assembly also passed A698, a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering in New Jersey. This will allow incarcerated people to be counted in their home districts for purposes of redistricting instead of at the location of the prisons. Previous legislation made the change for state legislative redistricting and this bill will end this harmful practice for all redistricting. Incarcerated people are still denied the vote while in prison.
This bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate next week.
“Prison-based gerrymandering is the modern-day form of the ‘3/5 Compromise,’ in that it counts incarcerated people’s bodies to artificially inflate the power of people who live around the prison at the expense of granting incarcerated people representation in their home districts,” said Ron Pierce, Democracy & Justice Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This has no place in a democracy, and the Assembly did the right thing today to vote against this practice. We look forward to the Senate doing the same and Governor Murphy signing this bill into law.”