Census 2020: Institute Joins 150+ Groups in Opposing the Citizenship Question

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Muslim Advocates, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and more than 145 other organizations in a “friend of the court” brief in the litigation brought by the State of New York against the U.S. Department of Commerce challenging the inclusion of an unnecessary, xenophobic, and intrusive citizenship question in the 2020 Census.

The groups write in part:

A fair and accurate 2020 census is a critical civil rights issue. Not only is the constitutionally mandated census central to apportioning political power at every level of government, but the data collected also influence the annual allocation of more than $800 billion in federal money, along with countless policy and investment decisions by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private enterprise. Given its foundational importance to American government and society, the census must be above partisan politics. The misguided decision to reverse seventy years of consistent census practice and insert an untested citizenship question undermines the integrity of the count, damages our communities, and violates the Census Bureau’s constitutional and statutory duties to conduct a full enumeration of the U.S. population.

Ryan Haygood in the Star Ledger: School integration is possible, necessary, and long overdue.

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes in the Star Ledger:

Integrating our schools would, thus help eliminate the entrenched housing segregation by race, ethnicity, and income that has become a hallmark of our state. 

This reality of our segregated school system is confirmed by my wife's experience as an educator in the Newark Public School system for more than 20 years. In that time, in more than two decades at three different schools, my wife has never had a white student. 

And though my wife and her superb colleagues have empowered their young scholars to overcome the odds with a top-flight education that has produced stunning results, they have done so in spite of staggering structural racism, hyper-segregation, and concentrated poverty.

This is not the promise that was envisioned by Brown.

The Institute Applauds Murphy's Initiative on Apprenticeships

Governor Phil Murphy has announced his vision for the New Jersey Apprenticeship Network (NJAN), a proposal included in his Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The Governor made the announcement during remarks at The Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative’s conference at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“New Jersey has some of the worst racial income and wealth disparities in the nation. We must expand access to economic mobility through jobs that pay a living wage and provide a career, including through apprenticeship programs. It is critical that we expand access to apprenticeships for women and people of color, who have been under-represented, particularly in high-growth, well-paying industries,” said Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “We look forward to working with Governor Murphy to make New Jersey a national leader on apprenticeships through policies that expand access to women, people of color, and people who face barriers to employment, strengthen the connection between our education and workforce systems, and support our business community’s use of apprenticeships – particularly in new, high-growth industries.”

The Apprenticeship Network will include: 

  • Establishing an Office of Apprenticeships in the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development to serve as a single contact for both employers and potential apprentices.  The office will be charged with developing new programs through a new Apprenticeship Innovation Fund and to facilitate interactions both at the federal Department of Labor and across industries;
  • Focusing on high-growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, clean energy and utilities, IT and software, and health care, and creating demand-driven training widely applicable across these sectors’ employers;
  • Creating formal linkages to the K-12 and higher education systems so that more New Jerseyans receive advanced degrees and students have career-focused options. These include the reinvigoration of the NJPLACE program to help apprentices earn college credits, and robust career counseling for middle and high school students to increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and in their target industries. 


64 years after Brown v. Board of Education New Jersey civil rights leaders file historic lawsuit to integrate New Jersey schools

On May 17, 2018, leading education advocates and civil rights leaders filed a historic lawsuit in state court designed to integrate New Jersey’s schools. A copy of the complaint can be found here

“Sixty-four years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, New Jersey’s public schools are as segregated by race and poverty today as they were in 1954,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Sixty-four years after Brown, we have important promises to keep and still others to make to New Jersey’s students. This case is about finally making good on our promises.”

New Jersey’s racial diversity and racial segregation, in combination with its extreme wealth and punishing poverty, has created in New Jersey’s public school classrooms some of the fiercest segregation by race, ethnicity, and poverty in this country:

  • The median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in America.

  • The median net worth for New Jersey’s Hispanic and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively, together totaling less than 5 percent of the net worth of white families in the state.

  • Of the approximately 585,000 Black and Latino public school students in New Jersey, 63% of them attend schools that are more than 75% non-white.  

  • Nearly half of all Black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90% non-white.  

  • More than 40 percent of white students attend schools that are at least 75% white.

“New Jersey cannot fulfill the promise of Brown, or the promise owed to our kids, without this lawsuit,” said Haygood. “No amount of good will, well wishes, or optimism will accomplish the systemic relief and fundamental transformation that is required. Integration is possible, it is necessary, and it is long overdue.”

Full disclosure: Institute Communications Director Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg's son is a plaintiff in the case and Weill-Greenberg is listed as his Guardian Ad Litem.

Scott Novakowski Speaks with the Wall Street Journal on Voting Rights Restoration

The Wall Street Journal reports:

In New Jersey, advocates are pursuing a legislative route to entirely end the system of felon disenfranchisement. The measure has drawn support from scores of civil-rights and faith groups, as well as other organizations, but its prospects remain uncertain, said Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which is promoting the measure.

Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale opposes the measure, saying at the time it was filed that for people who commit felonies, losing voting rights is “part of the risk they assume when they break the law.”

“I’m excited” about the bill, said Mr. Stackhouse, who also is trying to win an early end to his parole. “Let’s fight to stop this nonsense.”


Full Human Beings: An argument for incarcerated voter enfranchisement

People's Policy Project published a powerful report on the need to restore voting rights to people with convictions, featuring Institute intern Ronald Pierce:

Ronald Pierce, an intern with the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice who spent over 30 years in New Jersey state prisons, maintained in a phone interview that “the right to vote is a fundamental right, and a right to be connected to society. Not only a right to participate, but an obligation to the society.” When people in prison are prevented from fulfilling that obligation, he said, they become disconnected from the rest of society—and without that connection, there is no feeling of responsibility. “If you can’t fulfill your obligation to that community, why should that community look at you as an asset? You aren’t an asset to that community; you are a debt to that community.”

The Institute Welcomes Two New Board Members

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice welcomes Paulette Brown and Paul Fishman to its Board of Trustees.
Paulette and Paul join a prestigious team of highly respected leaders who are united around the belief that our cities hold incredible promise to advance progressive solutions to some of the greatest social and racial justice challenges of our time.
Paulette and Paul's professional expertise, coupled with their hearts for social justice, will help the Board powerfully advance the Institute's work.Paulette_Brown_1.jpg

Paulette made history as the first Black woman to ever serve as the President of the American Bar Association. She also served as the President of the National Bar Association. She is a partner at Locke Lord LLP and a member of the firm’s labor & employment practice group. For more than 35 years, Paulette has engaged in the private practice of law, focusing on all facets of labor and employment and commercial litigation. She regularly provides diversity and inclusion/implicit bias training to companies, law firms, and industry organizations.  Paul_Fishman_1.jpg

Paul has devoted his career to advancing social justice. Under his leadership as the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, the City of Newark entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice to bring about widespread transformation to the Newark Police Division, following findings that the Division had engaged in a number of unconstitutional practices. Paul is now a partner at Arnold & Porter and heads the firm’s Crisis Management and Strategic Response team. 

News Beat Podcast: Juvenile Detention's Racial Disparity, Rampant Violence & Lasting Damage


On this News Beat podcast, the Institute's James Williams talks about why we must end youth incarceration. Listen here

Scott Novakowski Speaks with Governing: Why We Must Restore the Right to Vote to People with Convictions

Governing reports:

"It's just not a credible argument to say that voting presents a threat to public safety," says Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which is pushing for restoration of voting rights for felons, including those currently serving time. "There's no justification for this practice. It's having a massive impact on communities of color."

The stakes are large. Nationwide, 6 million people with felony convictions are disenfranchised, including 4.7 million who have completed their prison sentences. The Florida ban alone affects 1.6 million, or 10 percent of the state's voting-age population. Florida is one of 33 states that doesn't automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons. (Two, Maine and Vermont, don't strip felons of their voting rights at all -- even while they're incarcerated...)

"New Jersey unfortunately has the greatest disparity in convictions," says Novakowski of the state's Institute for Social Justice. "A black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult. This idea of tying the criminal justice system to the right to vote is furthering this inequality and reproducing it within the electorate."

Comcast Newsmakers: New Report and Racial Disparities In New Jersey's Youth Prison System


Institute Associate Counsel Andrea McChristian spoke with Comcast Newsmakers about her new report on building a prison-to-school pipeline. Watch the interview here