Andrea McChristian Will Join Legislators, Clergy & Civil Rights Leaders in Unified Call for Social Justice Reform
NEWARK – Andrea McChristian, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, will join legislators, clergy and other civil rights leaders at a press conference Thursday morning in Trenton in a call for passage of legislation to end social injustice in New Jersey.
The press conference will focus on several pieces necessary for solving the social justice puzzle in New Jersey, including criminal justice reform (marijuana; parole; youth justice) and voting rights.
McChristian will specifically address the urgent need for bold and broad-based youth justice transformation through passage of S3701/A5365, the Youth Justice Transformation Act, and S2100/A3456, which will restore the right to vote to those in prison, on probation, and on parole.
“While New Jersey benefits from the patina of progressive thought, the deeper truth is that our state suffers from some of the worst racial disparities in the country and has laws that place us behind many other states when it comes to racial and social justice,” said McChristian. “Our youth justice system is deplorable, with the worst Black to white youth incarceration rate in the nation and an absurd price tag to maintain it. And despite mounds of evidence showing it serves no useful end, New Jersey continues to deny the fundamental right to vote to those in prison, on parole and on probation – a practice that infects our electoral process with the racism of the criminal justice system. There is legislation pending that addresses both of these injustices, and the time to pass it is now.”
Youth Justice Reform:
In New Jersey, a Black child is 30 times more likely than a white child to be locked up, despite committing most offenses at similar rates. The State spends almost $300,000 each year to incarcerate each young person in a state youth prison, and prioritizes funding our failed youth incarceration system over financing meaningful rehabilitative youth programs.
Following advocacy from the Institute, former Governor Chris Christie announced the closure of Jamesburg and Hayes – two youth prisons. Yet even as those facilities remain open, and even with a Task Force appointed by Governor Phil Murphy, the State plans to build three new youth prisons.
“New Jersey should be investing in building up our kids, not building prisons to incarcerate them. The New Jersey Youth Justice Transformation Act will make that happen by creating a closure timeline for all three of our state’s youth prisons and creating a $100 million lockbox fund for community-based programs,” said McChristian. “The Institute thanks Senators Rice and Cunningham; Assemblywomen Sumter, Carter, Timberlake, and Reynolds-Jackson; and Assemblymen Giblin and Holley for introducing this important bill, and looks forward to its advancement and passage.”
The Institute and its partners continue to call for transformative youth justice reform through the 150 Years is Enough Campaign – named to mark the year that Jamesburg youth prison for boys opened. In May, about 500 people rallied outside a proposed (now defunct) prison site in Newark (see video here).
Over 800 people have signed on to the Institute’s letter to Gov. Murphy and other elected officials calling for comprehensive youth transformation in New Jersey.
Voting Rights Restoration
Almost 100,000 people in New Jersey are denied the right to vote due to criminal convictions in New Jersey. About 50% are Black, despite Black people making up only 15% of the population in New Jersey. There is no evidence that denying this right serves any productive ends. In fact, it detracts from successful rehabilitation and reentry.
The Institute’s 1844 campaign, named for the year the right to vote was denied to people with criminal convictions, aims to restore the right to vote to those in prison, on probation, and on parole.
“The Institute calls on New Jersey to join Maine, Vermont, Puerto Rico, and most western democracies in severing the tie between the criminal justice system and the franchise, and in finally recognizing that the right to vote is fundamental,” said Henal Patel, Legal Fellow and Associate Counsel at the Institute. “The Institute thanks Senators Cunningham and Rice, and Assembly Members Sumter, Holley, and Tucker for their support of legislation to restore the right to vote to people in prison, on probation, and on parole.”
Press Conference Information
New Jersey State House
125 W State St, Trenton, NJ 08608
Room 103 (Across from the Senate Chambers)
When: 10 a.m., Thursday, June 27, 2019
- NJ Institute for Social Justice – Andrea McChristian, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative
- New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus – Chair Senator Ronald L. Rice and other Members such as Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake
- New Jersey Legislative Latino Caucus – Chair Senator Nellie Pou, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, and others
- NAACP Statewide Conference – President Richard Smith
- Salvation and Social Justice – Executive Director Reverend Dr. Charles F. Boyer
- Association of Black Women Lawyers – Immediate Past President Carolyn Chang
- NJ Black Issues Convention – Chair Reva Foster