It’s Easy to Cling to Chaos These Days. Remember MLK, and Pick Community Instead.


Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes for

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his final book before his assassination urging us to make the choice between chaos and community. “We are confronted with the urgency of now," he wrote, "…This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”

As we honor his 91st birthday and legacy today, we find ourselves again facing the same stark choice.

New Jersey Poised to Lead on Progressive Action with Key Social Justice Legislation



Voting Rights, Prison Gerrymandering, and Apprenticeships Move Forward as Session Ends


NEWARK — The closing of the New Jersey legislative session this week marked the passage of several key pieces of social justice legislation advanced by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice that will help move the state forward to becoming a more racially and socially just state.

“Against a backdrop of national chaos, we have taken substantial strides forward to advance racial and social justice over the 2018-2019 legislative session,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. urged us to choose community over chaos in difficult national moments like this one. In New Jersey, we are now choosing community—and we are succeeding in building our democracy from the ground up rather than waiting for it to come to us from Washington, D.C. We are building a New Jersey that will serve as a national bright light for progressive action.”

Public Forum On Juvenile Justice Reform Set For South Jersey's Anthony Bellano Reports

A statewide task force charged with helping improve New Jersey's youth justice system is seeking public input, the state attorney general's office announced on Monday. The state is particularly interested in hearing from those who have been directly impacted by the system.

The Task Force for the Continued Transformation of Youth Justice in New Jersey will hold a listening session at KROC Corps Community Center in Camden from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. The center is located at 1865 Harrison Avenue in Camden.

"We're calling on members of the community to share their ideas, experiences and opinions related to New Jersey's youth justice system and suggest ways to improve it," said Dr. Jennifer LeBaron, Acting Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission and Chairperson of the Task Force. "We welcome comments about any aspect of the system, but we are particularly interested in feedback on several specific topics of interest."

Fill Out Your Census Form!

Jewish Standard's Lois Goldrich Reports

Patricia D. Williamson, the director of New Jersey Counts, a project from the nonprofit, nonpartisan, Newark-based New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, is coming to Teaneck with an important message on January 20.

When you receive your census form, fill it out.

“A full and accurate census in 2020 is essential to ensuring that New Jersey receives the federal funding to which it is entitled,” Ms. Williamson said. After all, the United States Constitution mandates that the census, conducted every 10 years, must count every single person who lives in this country. The 2020 census form is due to be mailed out on March 12 and 13.

I Was in Juvenile Detention, So I Know That Locking Up Kids Doesn’t Work

The Institute's Youth Councils Leader Krystal Writes

Two years ago this week, former Gov. Chris Christie announced the closure of two of New Jersey’s youth prisons. Two years later, they remain open. Based on my personal experience, this is unacceptable.

I was what they call a dual-system kid. In the world of youth justice, that means I spent time in both a youth detention center and foster care. As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy journey from those dark days to my life today as a 26-year-old full-time social worker.

My success wasn’t inevitable. So many kids who get caught up in the criminal justice system never find their way back, so it’s important to me now to use the lessons I’ve learned to fix a broken system that fails so many of our vulnerable youth.

Bill to Stop 'Prison Gerrymandering' Advances in New Jersey

The Fulcrum Staff Reports

A nearly decade-long drive to end what's known as "prison gerrymandering" in New Jersey is accelerating toward success, likely in plenty of time for the redrawing of the state's political maps for the coming decade.

Legislation that would count incarcerated people at their home addresses, rather than where they are in imprisoned, is headed to the full state House after it was endorsed 7-4 in committee Monday. The same bill was passed by the state Senate a year ago.

The measure is being pushed hard by Democrats from urban areas, who say their political power is being shortchanged by the current system — which is now the practice in 44 states. If their bill becomes law, New Jersey would join only California, New York, Washington, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware in counting prisoners where they last lived before their convictions.


Redistricting 2020: Lawmakers Mull Change in How Inmates Are Counted

NJ Spotlight's Colleen O'Dea Reports

Prison inmates would be counted at their former homes, not where they are incarcerated, when New Jersey redraws its legislative boundaries next year under a bill now poised for final passage by state lawmakers.

Advocates for the change say the existing apportionment system inflates the population of places that host correctional facilities and distorts legislative representation both in those places and in the communities where the inmates lived before being incarcerated. State legislative district boundary lines are redrawn every decade to account for shifts in the population so that each contains roughly the same number of people.

N.J. Lawmakers Advance Bills to End ‘Prison Gerrymandering,’ Offer Online Voter Registration

WHYY's Joe Hernandez Reports

New Jersey lawmakers advanced separate election-related bills this week that aim to register more people to vote and change how the state draws legislative district maps.

The proposals were heard just a few weeks after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure into law that gives New Jersey residents on probation and parole voting rights.

The first bill would end the practice of so-called “prison gerrymandering,” in which states count people where they are incarcerated instead of where they previously lived for the purpose of drawing electoral maps.

To Draw Election Map, NJ May Count Inmates in Prior Hometowns

92.7 WOBM's Michael Symons reports

Among the bills advancing in the waning days of the legislative session are two with significant implications for elections in New Jersey.

One would end what critics call “prison-based gerrymandering” in which inmates are counted as residents of the municipality in which they are jailed, rather than in the town or city where they had been living. The other would let people register online to vote.

Helen Kioukis, a program associate for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, said six states have passed laws to count prison inmates at their last home address for legislative redistricting purposes “so that when it’s time to redraw our lines through the redistricting process, it’s done so in a fair way with a fairer outcome.”

Where do Inmates Fall in Census Count? NJ Moves to End 'Prison Gerrymandering''s Ashley Balcerzak Reports

Amid this decade's census count — which affects how U.S. congressional districts are drawn — New Jersey lawmakers are grappling with the question: Where do prisoners count?

New Jersey and a majority of states currently count incarcerated people in the districts where the prisons are, boosting population numbers in those districts at the expense of their home areas. Critics call the practice "prison gerrymandering."

The New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee on Monday advanced a bill, 7-4, that would count prisoners in the last known address before they were incarcerated, joining California, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Washington, according to a tally by the Prison Policy Initiative, which tracks the issue. The bill passed the Senate in February, largely on party lines.