News

N.J. Death Toll Tops 100 as Hospitals Stretched Increasingly Thin

WHYY's 

Twenty-seven more New Jerseyans have lost their lives to complications from the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday, bringing the statewide death toll to 108.

“These aren’t abstract numbers,” Murphy said at his daily news briefing. “These are our neighbors, our family, our friends. All of us — we are in this together, and we mourn together.”

New Law Allowing People on Probation and Parole to Vote Takes Effect in NJ

New York Amsterdam News' Cyril Josh Barker reports

Ron Pierce always valued the right to vote and remembers Election Day being meaningful in his house growing up. Thanks to a new law that took effect in New Jersey, the former inmate is casting his first ballot in nearly 35 years.

Pierce is one of 83,000 people on probation and parole in the Garden State who can now register to vote thanks to legislation that went into effect on March 17 allowing them to do so. In January, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill restoring the right to vote for residents on probation or parole.

Stuck In Jail During A Pandemic: Coronavirus Hits NJ Prisons

Patch.com's Eric Kiefer reports

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — When federal ICE detainees go on a hunger strike, they have 72 hours before they're sent to the prison's medical department. There, staff begin working their way through a laundry list of procedures, and may take drastic steps if the situation becomes dire – including holding inmates down and feeding them through tubes.

But according to prisoners and civil rights advocates in New Jersey, the fear of a force-feeding session is small potatoes when compared to the possibility of dying in jail from the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Incarcerated People Must Be Heard

Jacobin's Jonah Walters reports

In recent weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic’s devastation has spread, some attention has turned towards one of the most vulnerable groups in our society: those who are incarcerated, often in conditions that already posed great risks to health and safety before the coronavirus outbreak. Organizers around the country, from San Francisco to New York City to Pittsburgh, have called for a public health response that includes significant protections for incarcerated people, including the release of many prisoners.

At a moment like this, it is important to remember one of the most perverse elements of the American criminal justice system: all across the country, almost everyone incarcerated on a felony conviction loses their right to vote during the entire time they spend in prison, and often for long periods even after their release — a phenomenon advocates refer to as “civic death.”

 

Institute Joins Hundreds of Advocacy Organizations for “Everyone Counts” Campaign on Census Action Day

 

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Institute Joins Hundreds of Advocacy Organizations for “Everyone Counts” Campaign on Census Action Day

Focus is on Hard-to-Survey Communities of Color

 

NEWARK  – Today, marking Census Action Day, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and partner organizations are mobilizing people across New Jersey to get counted in the 2020 Census. The Institute, which is focusing its Census outreach on Hard-to-Survey Black communities, is a Census Counts campaign partner organization.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s COVID-19 Statement

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic closely, including its impact on the communities we advocate for every day.

Voting Rights Advocates Urge Gov. Murphy and Sec. of State Way to Ensure Robust Elections During Public Health Crisis

 

Voting Rights Advocates Urge Gov. Murphy and Sec. of State Way

to Ensure Robust Elections During Public Health Crisis

 

Groups’ Letter Details Steps to be Taken to Avoid Disenfranchisement

 

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sent a letter Thursday evening to Gov. Phil Murphy and Sec. of State Tahesha Way laying out steps that must be taken in order to ensure that upcoming elections in New Jersey are successful and robust, even during the current public health crisis.

“As we address our elections, it is paramount to prioritize health and safety, while also ensuring a thriving participatory democracy. Voting must be categorized as an ‘essential service’ and voters must have multiple options for accessing the ballot during this crisis. We are most concerned with communities, such as communities of color and the disability community, that historically face obstacles to the ballot,” said the groups in the letter.

Coronavirus Delays Newark's School Board Election Until May

Tapinto Newark Staff Reports

Newark's school board election will be delayed until May 12 and will be a vote-by-mail-only election in an effort to protect voters and ensure fairness to candidates during this unprecedented public health crisis, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Newark's school board election was initially scheduled for April 21, but the continuing spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey prompted the governor to sign an Executive Order delaying the election for all districts that hold it in April. Many school districts several years ago moved their elections to November.

“As the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, we must take aggressive and swift action to help mitigate further spread and flatten the curve,” Murphy said. “My top priority is to keep New Jerseyans healthy and safe during this pandemic, and these new measures will ensure that all New Jersey voters are able to safely exercise their right to vote and be engaged in our democracy.”

Two Parolees First to Re-Register to Vote as NJ Returns Right to Former Prisoners

NJSpotlight.com's Colleen O'Dea reports

The celebration was muted due to the current pandemic, but advocates and two men on parole who led a two-year battle to win back the right to vote celebrated nonetheless on Tuesday, the first day they were allowed to re-register to vote as early as the June primary.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice livestreamed the low-key event at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, as Ron Pierce and Antonne Henshaw, former prisoners, walked one after the other to a podium, signed a voter registration form and talked about their feelings on regaining the right to vote.

“Since the governor signed the bill restoring voting rights to approximately 83,000 people in New Jersey on parole and on probation, I have been counting the days down to this day, when I could use the pen the governor used to sign the legislation into law to fill out and sign my registration form, reinstating my right to vote, letting me have a meaningful say in the direction of my community, state and nation,” said Ron Pierce, an NJISJ fellow who has been denied the vote for 34 years, including after his release from prison on a murder conviction.

Opinion: Voiceless For Decades in Prison. Today, Their Voice Finally Matters.

The Institute's President & CEO, Ryan P. Haygood writes

It was in 1844 that New Jersey first decided people with criminal convictions should lose the vote – the same year it restricted the vote to white men only in its Constitution.

On its face, the relationship between denying the vote to people with criminal convictions and Black history might not be evident. But the connection is clear.

Last year, more than 102,000 people in New Jersey were denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction. Almost half were Black, though Black people comprise just 15% of New Jersey’s population.

This racial disparity is by design. It is a direct result of the racial discrimination in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, which has the worst racial disparities in America. A Black adult is 12 times more likely to be in prison than a white adult — the highest disparity in the nation, even though Black and white people commit most offenses at the same rate. By connecting voting to its broken criminal justice system, New Jersey literally imports this racism into its democracy.